Preparation work for the controversial Cambo oil field project has been postponed after protests from activists.
Greenpeace campaigners on Monday used kayaks to confront a ship in Norway preparing construction equipment for the fossil fuel production project.
A safety notice published earlier this month indicated that the ship was to bring the kit to the oil field site on 25 August – despite the project not yet receiving a development permit from the UK government.
In a letter to the business secretary, Greenpeace argued that carrying out this work without a permit would be unlawful and urged the government to intervene.
On Tuesday, the head of the oil company behind the project announced that the work would now be postponed until next year due to “operational issues” and bad weather.
“A decision has been made to delay this until 2022 due to operational issues and given the closing weather window West of Shetland for this kind of operation,” Jonathan Roger, CEO of Siccar Point Energy, said in a statement.
The company also said that its contractor had received the proper consent to carry out the preparation work, claiming that this is separate to the approvals needed for the full development of the project.
The government has previously come under fire from campaigners, researchers and politicians for refusing to rule out approving the new oil field ahead of Cop26, a global climate conference being hosted by the UK in Glasgow in November.
These groups have warned that approving the project, which would produce up to 170mn barrels of crude oil from 2025 until 2050, could damage the UK’s efforts to lead the conference.
An influential report from the International Energy Agency published in May said there can be no new fossil fuel production anywhere in the world if global climate targets are to be met.
The Independent’s Stop Fuelling the Climate Crisis campaign is shining a light on oil production in the North Sea ahead of Cop26.
Tessa Khan, an environmental lawyer and founder of the oil and gas campaign group Uplift, said that the postponement indicated that oil and gas companies are no longer able to avoid public scrutiny of their polluting activities.
“That time is over, now that we understand the catastrophic damage they are causing to our climate,” she told The Independent.
“Siccar Point’s apparent back-pedalling this morning suggests that they’ve realised this too. But it is up to our elected politicians to step in and stop this harm. That starts with Boris Johnson halting the Cambo development.”
A spokesperson for the UK’s Oil and Gas Authority said that it did not comment on individual applications, but added that consent from both itself and offshore environmental regulators within the UK government would be required before installation work could take place.
It added that such consent would “normally include a condition to remove the device if the proposed well is not drilled by a specific date”.
The Independent has contacted the UK government for comment.