BP Rig U-Turns After Greenpeace Ship Overtakes

Credit: Greenpeace / Jiri Rezac
Credit: Greenpeace / Jiri Rezac

Published Jun 17, 2019 7:17 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise overtook a BP rig near the drill site of a major new oil well in the North Sea on Sunday, causing the rig to make a u-turn.

The incident took place approximately 20 miles short of the drill site off Scotland. The standoff between climate activists and BP has been on-going for over a week as activists continue to stop BP’s plans to drill a new well in the Vorlich oil field, containing an estimated 30 million barrels of crude.

Greenpeace UK climbers have worked in teams to board the rig Paul Loyd JNR. 11 activists have been arrested so far in the course of the week-long occupation, and three freelance photographers have also been arrested but subsequently released. In the early hours of Sunday activists attempted to re-board the rig for the fourth time, but the BP vessel towing the rig sped away from them. Greenpeace International activists then pursued and overtook the rig at around 1pm. 

BP says it had secured an injunction against the Arctic Sunrise. “Given Greenpeace’s repeated interference and reckless actions directed at our lawful business and their continued illegal defiance of court orders and police action, we have ... this injunction as a precautionary measure to protect the safety of people and operations,” said BP in a statement.

Earlier on June 10, BP issued a statement saying: “In all operations safety is our top priority. While we recognize the right for peaceful protest, the actions of this group are irresponsible and may put themselves and others unnecessarily at risk.

"We are working with Transocean—the rig’s owner and operator—and the authorities to assess the situation and resolve it peacefully and safely.

“We share the protestors’ concerns about the climate. We support the Paris agreement. And we are working every day to advance the world’s transition to a low carbon future.

“We’re reducing emissions from our own operations – down 1.7 million tonnes last year – improving our products to help our customers reduce their emissions, and creating new low carbon businesses. We are committed to being part of the solution to the climate challenge facing all of us.”

Greenpeace notes that its own actions come after Pope Francis warned oil bosses gathered in Rome on Friday June 14 that when “faced with a climate emergency, we must take action accordingly, in order to avoid perpetrating a brutal act of injustice towards the poor and future generations.”

Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: “BP’s oil rig has done a U-turn and we urge chief executive Bob Dudley to do the same. BP must stop drilling for new oil and switch to renewables.”

He said: “BP will face opposition wherever they plan to drill for more oil, from the North Sea to the Arctic and from the mouth of the Amazon to the Gulf of Mexico. We have tried letters, meetings, petitions – none of that worked. Now we’re going to stand in BP’s way to prevent further harm to people at the sharp end of the climate crisis.

“In the long run, this is a confrontation BP can’t win. They are in it for their profits, we’re in it for our planet’s future.”

Despite BP claiming that its business is compatible with the Paris climate agreement, Greenpeace argues BP’s operations are in direct opposition to efforts to prevent catastrophic climate change. The organization asserts:

-Despite scientists warning that existing oil and gas reserves already exceed what we can safely burn, BP is seeking to expand its operations in the Gulf of Mexico while welcoming President Trump’s move to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drillers;

-BP is outspending other oil majors on efforts to lobby against climate action. An investigation by Unearthed revealed BP successfully lobbied the Trump administration to weaken regulations that would have prevented the release of millions of tonnes of the potent greenhouse gas methane;

-BP capital expenditure remains heavily skewed towards fossil fuels. In 2018 it spent around $16 billion adding to oil and gas reserves, with $500 million – just over three percent –  being spent on alternatives to fossil fuels. As Bob Dudley admitted to the Washington Post: “If someone said, ‘Here’s $10bn to invest in renewables,’ we wouldn’t know how to do it.”