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UK’s biggest gas supplier accused of ‘ripping off’ Britons as it announces £28bn profit

People take part in a protest in central London last year after the controversial Equinor Rosebank North Sea oil field was given the go-ahead (Lucy North/PA) (PA Wire)
People take part in a protest in central London last year after the controversial Equinor Rosebank North Sea oil field was given the go-ahead (Lucy North/PA) (PA Wire)

The UK’s biggest gas supplier has been accused of “ripping off” Britons during the cost of living crisis as it posted annual earnings of £28bn for 2023.

Equinor, owned by the Norwegian state, said on Wednesday that its fourth quarter earnings fell to £6.9bn from £13.5bn to a year earlier due to lower gas prices.

The oil and gas producer provides just over a quarter of Britain’s gas and was given the go-ahead in September last year to develop the Rosebank field in the North Sea, despite fierce opposition from environmental campaigners.

Equinor said the oil field should produce around 300 million barrels of oil. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine the company reported record annual earnings of £62bn on last year as gas prices soared.

It comes just a day after oil giant BP announced profits of more than $1bn a month for 2023.

Britain has been in the grip of a cost-of-living crisis since mid-2021, with a total of 14.4 million people estimated to be in poverty in the UK in 2021-22 – with an increasing number unable to afford food or pay their energy bills.

Campaigners from Stop Rosebank, Fossil Free London, Parents for Future and Medact gathered outside the Norwegian Embassy in London on Wednesday to protest the company’s eye-watering profits.

Stop Rosebank campaigner, Lauren MacDonald said: “Equinor and Norway are ripping off ordinary people, millions of whom are struggling to afford to stay warm in winter and are saddled with energy debt. It’s shameful.

“But instead of standing up for ordinary people, this government is bending over backwards to give Equinor what it wants. There is next to no public benefit from approving Rosebank – it won’t lower bills or boost UK energy security as its mostly oil for export – it will just make Equinor even richer.

“Equinor‘s already grotesque profits are a sure sign of a broken energy system and instead of taking action, the government is adding to Equinor‘s vast riches by effectively handing them billions in subsidies to develop Rosebank.”

Charlie Kronick, senior climate advisor at Greenpeace UK, said: “These profits make the UK government’s decision to award Equinor almost £3bn in tax breaks to develop the Rosebank oil field appear even more outrageous.

“Rosebank will do nothing to lower energy bills or increase our energy security but will cause climate chaos around the world. This government has consistently sided with the world’s richest polluters, while those who have contributed least to climate change are left to pick up the tab.”

Equinor has been approached for comment.