Equinor and Ithaca Energy’s Rosebank oil project in the UK North Sea has been hit by legal challenges from campaign groups Uplift and Greenpeace UK.

Greenpeace UK and Uplift will file separate legal challenges with the aim of overturning the UK government’s approval of the Rosebank oilfield development.

In September this year, Equinor and Ithaca Energy took the final investment decision to move ahead with the Phase 1 of the oil field with an investment of $3.8bn. This was after securing approval from the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA).

Greenpeace UK and Uplift have both submitted applications to the Court of Session in Edinburgh. The groups are seeking a judicial review of the decision made by the current Energy Secretary, Claire Coutinho, and the NSTA to give consent to develop the largest untapped oil field in the UK North Sea.

The total recoverable resources of the Rosebank field as per Equinor are approximately 300 million barrels of oil, with Phase 1 focusing on an estimated 245 million barrels.

According to Uplift and Greenpeace UK, the decision to approve the Rosebank oil project is unlawful.

Their points of argument include the neglect of the impact of emissions from burning Rosebank’s oil and inconsistency with the government’s objectives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure a secure climate.

Additionally, the groups allege that the project could potentially harm a protected area in the North Sea and the diverse marine life it sustains.

Uplift executive director Tessa Khan, who is a climate lawyer, said: “If Rosebank goes ahead, the UK will blow its own plans to stay within safe climate limits. It’s that simple. If the government disagrees, it needs to provide evidence and prove it in court.

“The regulator also needs to be open about its reasons for approving a huge oil field when we’re facing a worsening climate crisis.”

Greenpeace UK claimed that the combustion of Rosebank’s oil would release as much carbon dioxide as operating 56 coal-fired power stations for a year.

The group further said that the burden of developing the field, accounting for nearly all of the costs, will be borne by the UK public, while the owners of Rosebank are set to receive approximately £3bn in tax breaks.

Despite this, the Rosebank oil project is unlikely to lower household energy bills, as its oil will be sold globally, mostly exported, and the production of British oil and gas does not significantly impact the prices paid by UK consumers, the environmental group argued.

Greenpeace UK co-executive director Areeba Hamid said: “Since its oil will be exported and sold by Norwegian fossil fuel giant, Equinor, Rosebank won’t deliver any benefits to the UK’s energy security, economy, or lower bills.

“It’s just more proof that this government is putting the profits of oil and gas companies over the British public and the planet. Rosebank’s development simply cannot go ahead.

“And we’re taking the government to court to make sure that it doesn’t.”