Vanmorgenvroeg hebben actievoerders van Greenpeace een gigantisch olieplatform beklommen, dat op weg is om voor de kust van Groenland te gaan boren. De actievoerders van het Greenpeace-schip Esperanza zitten in een overlevingstentje op tientallen meters hoogte met voldoende eten en drinken om het dagenlang vol te houden. Het platform wil in de extreme arctische omstandigheden naar nieuwe olie boren, in een gebied waar het dichten of opruimen van een mogelijk olielek vrijwel onmogelijk is.

De Nederlandse campagneleider Rolf Schipper is aan boord van een tweede actieschip, de Arctic Sunrise, dat zich in hetzelfde gebied bevindt. Hij stond vorige week al oog in oog met het boorplatform en riep hen via de scheepsradio op van hun tocht af te zien.

Rolf Schipper is bereikbaar op +870 764 596 090, Greenpeace persvoorlichting via 06 25031013.


Climbers in survival pod hang next to giant drill-bit

Greenland, Sunday 29 May 2011 – Environmental campaigners from Greenpeace have scaled the world’s most controversial oil rig and are hanging from the underside in an Arctic survival pod with enough food and water to stay there for ten days. Their action will prevent the rig starting dangerous deep water drilling 100 miles west of the Greenland coast.

The rig’s operators, Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy, is the only company planning to drill in the region, but if it strikes oil this summer it will spark an oil rush that would devastate the fragile Arctic environment.

At 3am local time three expert climbers in inflatable speedboats launched from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza and scaled the 53,000 tonne Leiv Eiriksson. They avoided a Danish warship that had been shadowing the Greenpeace team for days, having been sent to keep the protesters from the rig. The climbers then set up camp a few metres from the huge drill-bit that Cairn hopes will strike oil in the coming weeks. If drilling is delayed for just a short time, Cairn could struggle to meet a tight deadline to complete the exploration before winter ice closes in, forcing it to abandon the search for another year.

25 year-old Luke is one of the climbers hanging next to the drill-bit above the freezing Arctic ocean. Speaking by satellite phone he said: “Despite the extreme waters below, we’re safe and secure. There’s no way Cairn can drill for oil while we’re hanging next to their drill-bit, and it’s going to be extremely difficult for them to remove our survival pod. To drill for oil here would be dangerous insanity. We have to stop the Arctic oil rush.”

The Cairn rig was boarded by the Greenpeace team as it transited across the Davis Strait towards the Atammik drill site west of Greenland, where it plans to drill in 905m of water. The Leiv Eiriksson was just hours from reaching the site and beginning operations when the climbers boarded it and hung the 3 metre diameter pod. As long as the pod stays in place, drilling is impossible.

Greenpeace International oil campaigner Ben Ayliffe is on board the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, within sight of the rig and the survival pod. He said: “We boarded the rig a few hours before it was due to reach its Arctic drill site, and now it can’t start operations. We are preventing it from drilling because an oil spill up here would be nearly impossible to deal with due to the freezing conditions and remote location. A BP-style blow-out off the Greenland coast would make the Deepwater Horizon clean-up look simple.”

Greenpeace International has repeatedly asked Cairn for its emergency oil spill response plan but has been refused. That request was repeated to the rig by radio several times this week, but was ignored. The world’s oil giants are watching Cairn’s rig with great interest. If it strikes oil this summer Exxon, Chevron and the other big oil companies (which have already bought up Greenland licenses) will begin drilling in the area and the Arctic oil rush will be on.

Even without an accident Cairn admits its drilling operation will result in at least 9,000 tonnes of toxic chemicals being discharged directly into the waters of the Davis Strait – including 180 tonnes of red-listed chemicals (more than all annual oil drilling operations in Norway and Denmark combined). The company admits that it would take decades before significant profits from oil exploration flow to Greenland, while Cairn’s operations pose a grave threat to Greenland’s fisheries, which represent 88% of the island’s export economy.

The area where Cairn intends to drill is known as ‘Iceberg Alley’. The company intends to tow icebergs out of the rig’s path or use water cannons to divert them to avoid a collision as the rig drills for oil. If the icebergs are too large the company has admitted it will need to move the rig itself. Last year a 260km2 ice island broke off the Petermann glacier north of Iceberg Alley. The region is famous for its narwhal population.


***video and stills available***


• The occupation comes a weeks after Greenpeace released confidential UK Foreign Office documents, obtained though a Freedom of Information request, showing that British officials privately believe it would be ‘near impossible’ to clean up a spill in the Arctic. They say offshore drilling in the region poses ‘considerable challenges’ and risks ‘the possibility of a second Gulf of Mexico type event.’ Earlier this month Wikileaks released documents showing the Arctic nations privately discussing a ‘carve-up’ of the Arctic and its resources.

UK government documents here:

Details of Wikileaks revelations here:

• The UK government’s concerns are mirrored by experts in oil-spill response who spoke to a Canadian Parliamentary inquiry last year, Ron Bowden, of Aqua-Guard Spill Response noted that, “there is really no solution or method today that we’re aware of that can actually recover [spilt] oil from the Arctic.”

• In 2010, Cairn stressed that its drillings off Greenland were in relatively shallow waters of around 300m, and so in no way comparable to the deep water Macondo well that ruptured causing the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This year, however, Cairn will drill at far greater depths than before. With the exception of one proposed drill site, all its wells will be between 900 and 1,500 meters of water depth.

• The increased depth of water makes the impact of a potential blow-out much greater and significantly extends the time required for drilling a relief well. In its modeling for 2010, Cairn has estimated that only 5,000 barrels of oil could leak from its wells every day, one sixth of the estimated release rate for oil drilling in Norway and one tenth of the release rate during Deepwater Horizon. Cairn in 2010 calculated it would take 37 days to drill a relief well. For 2011 it has used a similar figure, without considering the vast differences in drilling depths between this year and last.

• Cairn’s latest environmental impact assessment fails to even analyse what would happen if oil leaked under the Arctic ice, even though it admits that spewing oil would likely end up reaching under the frozen northern sea. Cairn continues to refuse to publish a comprehensive plan for how it would deal with a spill from the platform, and has just 14 vessels capable of reacting to a spill (BP’s response in the Gulf of Mexico required 6,500 vessels and employed over 50,000 people).

• The U.S. government calculates that the chance of a major spill occurring over the lifetime of a single block of leases in its own Arctic waters is greater than 20% – while those odds increase with every extra license granted. If the Cairn operation strikes oil the number of wells sunk off Greenland would increase dramatically.

• Drilling west of Greenland is limited to a ‘summer window’. After this date, sea-ice becomes too thick to allow vessels to operate and relief wells cannot be drilled effectively. Even in the window Cairn has to tow icebergs out of the rig’s path or use water cannons to divert them. If the icebergs are too large the company has pledged to move the rig itself to avoid a collision.

• Cairn is run by Sir Bill Gammell, a childhood friend of both Tony Blair and George W Bush. When Bush first met Blair his opening words were: ‘I hear you know my friend Bill Gammell.’ This year Gammell sold Cairn’s Indian operation for $9.2bn to fund the Greenland project, describing the Arctic as his ‘Plan A, B and C.’

• Baffin Bay is home to 80 to 90% of the world’s Narwhals. The region is also home to blue whales, polar bears, seals, sharks and many migratory birds.

• Cairn’s Greenland project is representative of a new approach to modern oil exploration, where self-styled ‘wildcat’ companies take on huge financial and technical risks in the hope of hitting a previously undiscovered reservoir of oil. The company’s failure to provide a comprehensive spill response plan raises serious questions about Cairn’s ability to deal with an accident in one of the most hostile environments on earth. Dealing with a spill in the Arctic would be nigh-on impossible.