OIL and energy group Total has made a major gas discovery off Shetland.

Initial tests have shown that the discovery on the Glendronach prospect on the west of Shetland, has the potential to deliver about one trillion cubic feet of gas, the group said.

But the announcement has been greeted with disdain by environmental groups with Friends of the Earth Scotland saying the discovery is a "total disaster" environmentally and its exploitation would be "incompatible with a country and a world that takes climate action seriously".

Arnaud Breuillac, Total’s president of exploration and production, said: “Glendronach is a significant discovery for Total which gives us access to additional gas resources in one of our core areas and validates our exploration strategy.

HeraldScotland:

“Located on an emerging play of the prolific west of Shetland area, the discovery can be commercialised quickly and at low cost by leveraging the existing Laggan-Tormore infrastructure.”

The company said the discovery could be commercialised by using the current Laggan-Tormore infrastructure.

France-based Total has a 60% stake in the site. Energy company SSE and chemicals firm Ineos each have a 20% interest.

Friends of the Earth Scotland director Dr Richard Dixon said: “This gas should stay where is it. On the same day the Scottish Government is urged by its own climate advisers to do more to cut emissions, it needs to end further oil and gas exploration in the North Sea.

“The Scottish Government, along with big oil and gas companies, should be planning for a rapid and orderly transition away from fossil fuels in a way that is fair to the workers and communities currently dependent on these industries.

“Communities, business and civil servants who have been striving to cut emissions across the country will be appalled that their work can be undone so easily. ”

Gina Hanrahan, acting head of policy at WWF Scotland said: "We can’t limit global warming with one hand tied behind our backs. To bring down our emissions globally, we simply can’t burn most of our existing fossil fuel reserves, let alone new discoveries like this Shetland field. The smart money should be going into clean energy, not risking stranded assets in the North Sea.”

Chief executive of UK’s Oil and Gas Authority, Andy Samuel, said the discovery was "great news not just for Total and the Shetland Gas Plant, it’s great news for the UK’s security of supply".

HeraldScotland:

Source: Total

"We know West of Shetland has significant exploration potential; some 1 trillion cubic feet of gas, which is why we’re supporting industry’s West of Shetland Area Plan to progress exploration and development in the region.

“We’ll soon be releasing our revised Yet-to-Find estimates for the prospective resources across the UKCS and these will highlight that the Atlantic Margin ranks highly in terms of hydrocarbon volume potential.

"We want to see more activity in the region and we recently made some of these areas available in the current 31st Offshore Licensing Round, which will close on November 7, 2018, and intend to make more acreage in the West of Shetland available for next year’s 32nd Offshore Licensing Round.”

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said the "important gas field find can secure the future of the Shetland Gas Plant for many years to come".

It comes a year after Hurricane Energy, a specialist exploration firm, announced made what it has described as the "largest undeveloped discovery" of oil in UK waters, 60 miles west of Shetland.

It said one billion barrels of recoverable oil could be contained within the Greater Lancaster Area ands said then that it hoped to begin production in 2019.

The discovery was significantly larger than the average find in recent years, which had been about 25 million barrels.

However, it was still a fifth of the size of the Forties field, which contains about five billion barrels - of which approximately two billion had been recovered.