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Energy firm Equinor under fire after posting record £23.8 billion profits

One of the UK and Europe's biggest gas producers has become the latest energy firm to stoke mounting anger after posting “grotesque” annual profits of 28.7 billion US dollars (£23.8 billion). (Andy Buchanan/PA)
Holly Williams, PA Business Editor

One of the UK and Europe's biggest gas producers has become the latest energy firm to stoke mounting anger over “grotesque” record-breaking annual profits.

Norwegian firm Equinor posted underlying earnings of 74.9 billion US dollars (£61.9 billion), more than double the 33.5 billion US dollars (£27.7 billion) it made in 2021.

On a net profit basis, it reported 28.7 billion US dollars (£23.8 billion) compared with profits of 8.6 billion US dollars (£7.1 billion) in 2021.

It follows similar mammoth bottom line profits for oil and gas giants in recent days thanks to last year's soaring energy prices, with BP and Shell both posting record-breaking figures for 2022, at £23 billion and £33 billion respectively.

Campaigners have taken aim at the firms for raking in huge profits while households and businesses are suffering amid a cost of living crisis and claim the companies have made little progress in switching to renewable energy sources.

Greenpeace hit out at Equinor's profit announcement and reiterated its call for a bigger windfall tax on the sector.

Protesters from climate campaigners Parents for Future, Mothers Rise Up, and HERO UK Climate Justice Circle are also staging a demonstration outside Equinor's London headquarters in protest at its figures and its plans to develop Rosebank, the UK's largest undeveloped oil field.

The activists at Equinor's headquarters described the figures as “grotesque”.

Mel Evans, Greenpeace UK's head of UK climate, added: “Equinor is the latest fossil fuel giant to post record profits looted from bill payers' pockets while destroying the climate last year.

“Just 0.13% of its energy production came from renewables in 2022.

“Instead of giving out more tax breaks for oil and gas drilling, the Government needs to claw back these massive profits and use them to insulate people's homes and scale up renewable energy.”

A spokesman for Equinor said the group is aiming to “significantly increase investments in renewables, and that we foresee that more than 50% of gross investments will go to renewables and low carbon projects by 2030”.

He added that the Rosebank development “has the potential to strengthen energy security with oil and gas that is produced with a much lower carbon footprint than current UK production” and claimed it will bring in around £26.8 billion to the UK economy through taxes and investments.

The firm's highest ever annual profit came after a better-than-expected performance in the last three months of 2022, with quarterly underlying earnings edging up to 15.1 billion US dollars (£12.5 billion), against predictions for a fall.

But its report revealed that production from renewable energy sources was 2% lower year-on-year in the fourth quarter.

Equinor – which is majority Norwegian state-owned – is one of the biggest producers of gas in the world, and last year became Europe's biggest supplier of natural gas after Russia's Gazprom slashed deliveries amid sanctions against President Putin's regime, following his invasion of Ukraine.

It has historically supplied around 25% of gas used in the UK.

Anders Opedal, president and chief executive of Equinor, said: “In 2022, we responded to the energy crisis and contributed to energy security.

“With strong operational performance, we delivered record results and cash flow from operations.

“We stepped up capital distribution to shareholders, while continuing to invest in a balanced energy transition and contributing to society with high tax payments.”

The group – which makes the bulk of its profit in Norway, where oil firms pay tax at 78% – said it expects to pay record taxes in 2022, with 42.8 billion US dollars (£35.4 billion) paid in tax related to operations on the Norwegian continental shelf.

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