Greenpeace Occupies Giant Oil Rig off Shetland:

Calling for a ban on deepwater oil drilling

Press release - 21 September, 2010
Lerwick, Shetland Islands, 21 September, 2010 -- Greenpeace activists have occupied a giant oil drilling ship anchored one mile off Shetland, in the UK, to prevent its departure to begin dangerous deep water drilling in an ecological sensitive area known as the Atlantic Frontier. Greenpeace is calling on North Sea governments to adopt a ban on deepwater drilling when they meet later this week.

The Greenpeace activists used speedboats to reach the 228m long Stena Carron drill ship. Having climbed up the giant rungs of the anchor chain, Victor Rask from Sweden and Anais Schneider from Germany are now hanging 5 meters above the waves in a tent suspended by ropes from one of the meter long rungs, rendering the ship is unable to leave. 

Operated by US energy giant Chevron, the Stena Carron is due to sail for a site in the Lagavulin oil field where it plans to drill an exploratory well in 500 meters of water. Since the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, environmental campaigners have joined forces with politicians across the world to demand a ban on new deep water drilling. 

Anais and Victor have just returned from a Greenpeace expedition to the Arctic, where they were members of the team that stopped drilling at a controversial deep water drilling rig operated by Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy.

Speaking this morning by satellite phone from the tent hanging from the Chevron anchor chain, 29 year old Anais said: 

“It was incredible to climb up the anchor chain, the rungs were nearly as big as I am and Chevron’s drilling ship is one of the biggest things I’ve ever seen at sea. I’m in the tent now and we have supplies to last through to tomorrow at least, meaning we can stop it leaving to drill for oil in deep water. The Shetlands are so beautiful and an oil spill here could devastate this area and the North sea. It’s time to go beyond oil. Our addiction is harming the climate, the natural world and our chances of building a clean energy future.”  

The occupation comes two days before environment ministers from countries bordering the North Sea meet, in Bergen, Norway, under the auspices of the OSPAR Convention to discuss a German proposal to ban new deep water oil drilling. The UK government is sending two ministers to the meeting to block the proposal. 

The other climber in the hanging tent, 38-year old Victor Rask, said: 

“David Cameron said his government would be the greenest ever, but he won’t even support a plan to protect our seas from a BP-style disaster. Instead of drilling for the last drops in fragile environments like this, oil companies should be developing the clean energy technologies we need to fight climate change and reduce our dependence on oil. We need a global ban on deep water drilling, and longer term we need a permanent shift away from fossil fuels towards clean energy solutions.”

The area west of Shetland is believed to hold 2bn-4bn barrels of ‘oil equivalent’ in oil and gas.  BP already operates three oil and gas fields in the area, in water no deeper than 1,800ft. In July 2010, BP confirmed that it plans to drill at much deeper depths at a potential field called Cardhu, a few miles south of the Chevron site.

For more information contact Szabina Mozes, Greenpeace International Communication on +31 646 16 2023

For video and stills contact Melissa Thompson, Greenpeace International Video Desk: + 31 621 296899; John Novis, Greenpeace International Picture Desk: +44 (0) 7801 615 889

Notes: Investigations into the Gulf of Mexico spill are still underway and the full extent of the tragedy is only now being discovered. Any clean-up operation off Shetland could be severely hampered by rough weather, making it more expensive and difficult than the operation in the US, which as of September 2010 had already cost nearly $10bn, with continuing costs of $90m per day. Colder waters would also mean that oil would disperse much more slowly, and therefore cause greater damage to wildlife.

Harsh weather conditions west of Shetland, in what is described by the Government as ‘a particularly challenging location’, have so far deterred major exploitation of oil, but recently energy firms have lobbied for tax breaks to make production more attractive. In January this year Alistair Darling announced changes that could be worth £12 billion over the next eight years. The Eggar review, led by former Conservative Energy Minister and oilman Tim Eggar, is expected to recommend further incentives. The Lib Dem-Conservative coalition government is refusing to release the contents of the Review.

The process by which exploration and production licenses are issued to the industry is being ‘streamlined’. As a result, Chevron, BP and other oil majors have announced their intention to push further into the region west of Shetland, drilling wells in riskier deeper waters and more remote locations than ever before.