The Norwegian oil giant leading work on the planned Rosebank development West of Shetland has highlighted the benefits of a bumper acquisition it made in the UK North Sea as it posted a $12 billion (£9.5bn) annual profit.

Equinor said it achieved strong results last year on the back of production growth, which was supported by the acquisition of an $850 million portfolio of UK assets from Canada’s Suncor.

In its annual results announcement, Equinor hailed the positive contribution made by the venerable Buzzard field in the North Sea. Equinor acquired a 39 per cent stake in Buzzard from Suncor, along with an additional 40% stake in Rosebank.

In September Equinor underlined its belief in the long-term potential of the UK North Sea as an oil and gas basin by approving plans for the multi-billion dollar Rosebank development with Ithaca Energy.

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Equinor also hopes to develop a gas fired power plant at Peterhead with Scottish energy giant SSE.

Campaigners are bitterly opposed to the proposed developments on environmental grounds.

Friends of the Earth Scotland said yesterday: “Equinor’s onshore and offshore fossil fuel expansion plans must be stopped.”

Equinor increased production by 2% last year to an average 2.1 million barrels oil equivalent daily, from 2mmboe last time.

It has operations around the world.

The growth in production helped compensate for the fall in oil and gas prices during the year from the highs reached in 2022 amid the fallout from Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Concerns about the outlook for the global economy weighed on prices last year. They remained high by historic standards.

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Equinor’s annual profits fell by around 60% from a record $29bn after tax in 2022.

However, chief executive Anders Opedal said the company generated strong results.

These allowed it to make big payouts to shareholders while investing in oil and gas and renewables assets.

Claiming that Equinor is well positioned to deliver profitable growth, Mr Opedal added: “We are extending the outlook for stable contribution from oil and gas to 2035.”

Buzzard was brought into production in 2007 by Nexen, which was acquired by China’s CNOOC in 2013.

On its website state-owned CNOOC describes Buzzard as one of the UK’s highest-producing fields.

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“Buzzard has produced more than 800 million BOE [barrels oil equivalent] and constant development of the field … means it is expected to continue producing beyond 2040,” the company says. 

Equinor’s UK assets include the giant Mariner field East of Shetland, which it brought onstream in 2019. It developed the Hywind floating windfarm off Aberdeen.

In September Equinor said it expected to start production from the 300 million-barrel Rosebank field in 2026-27. It has an 80% stake in Rosebank, with Ithaca on 20%.