Greenpeace protesters board Shell platform bound for Shetland
Greenpeace protesters have boarded a Shell floating oil platform which is being transported over 12,000 nautical miles to the Shetland Islands with signs demanding that the fossil fuel giant “Stop drilling – start paying”.
The four activists from the UK, Turkey, the US and Argentina climbed on to the 52,000-tonne heavy-lift vessel just north of the Canary Islands on Tuesday morning and displayed a banner from the platform in what it said was a peaceful protest against the climate devastation around the world “caused by Shell and the wider fossil fuel industry, without paying a penny towards loss and damage”.
The protesters reached the heavy-lift vessel in three boats launched from Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise ship and used ropes to climb on to the deck. They then occupied the platform, which is being carried on the back of the vessel.
One of the occupiers, Usnea Granger, said they had left the main Greenpeace boat early in the morning and used ropes to scale the vessel and platform. “There was a couple of meters of swell. It was a bit of an adventure to get on board,” she said, over gusts of Atlantic wind. “But we are well and safe. We have all the equipment we need to keep ourselves safe.”
Granger said the protest was personal for her. “I’m originally from the United States and we’ve had so many climate catastrophes. It’s hard to keep track,” she said. “I’ve had friends who have been forced to flee their homes with no warning from forest fires. I’ve had friends who need to leave because of hurricanes and never go back. I know farmers who had to leave the farms where they raised their kids because of drought.”
Yeb Saño, Greenpeace executive director and former lead climate negotiator for the Philippines, failed to get on board the platform. He said: “We’re taking action today because when Shell extracts fossil fuels it causes a ripple of death, destruction and displacement around the world, having the worst impact on people who are least to blame for the climate crisis.”
The platform will enable Shell, which is expected to unveil adjusted annual profits of around $83bn (£67bn) later this week, to further exploit the Penguins oil and gas field, which sits 150 miles (240km) off the Shetland Islands. Greenpeace says it will be used to unlock eight new wells in the field.
The platform could also be involved in producing new oil and gas from a nearby untapped reservoir, which is being drilled by Shell. The company, which is headquartered in London, has described the redevelopment of the Penguins field as an “attractive opportunity”, which it estimates will produce 45,000 barrels of oil or equivalent in gas every day at its peak.
Shell said the protest was a safety concern. “These actions are causing real safety concerns, with a number of people boarding a moving vessel in rough conditions. We respect the right of everyone to express their point of view. It’s essential they do that with their safety and that of others in mind,” said a spokesperson.
The company added that oil and gas production was falling too quickly in the North Sea. “It is important to stop it tailing off too steeply, while the transition to low-carbon energy gathers pace. The new floating vessel will allow production from the Penguins field to continue to provide the necessary energy that the UK needs,” said a spokesperson.
Shell said the project was consistent with net zero pathways and would help reduce the UK’s reliance on costly, higher carbon imports. It said it was an old field – not a new one and added that 75% of the £25bn it planned to invest in the UK energy system over the next decade was intended for low and zero-carbon technology, including offshore wind, hydrogen and electric mobility.
Greenpeace has calculated that burning all the gas and oil from the Penguins field could create 45m tonnes of CO2 - more than the entire annual emissions of Norway.
The International Energy Agency has called for no further investment in fossil fuel projects, with research by the agency showing there is no room for new oil and gas if the world energy systems are going to reach net zero by 2050. The UN environment programme has found that current global fossil fuel production plans would lead to 57% more oil and 71% more gas than is safe to keep warming to 1.5C.
However, the UK government argues further exploration is necessary because the country remains heavily reliant on fossil fuels and production is declining in the North Sea. Ministers have also said that new supplies are essential for energy security. The latest government-sanctioned licensing round for offshore oil and gas attracted over 100 bids from 76 companies in January. There are already 27 licensed oil and gas projects, including the Cambo oil field, awaiting final approval. A further eight projects including Shell’s Jackdaw project are ready to start producing gas and oil.