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Greenpeace activists scale oil rig in Norwegian Arctic

Louisa Wright
April 29, 2019

Greenpeace activists have scaled an oil rig that is due to drill in Norway's most northern well. It comes as Greenpeace prepares to appeal a case it lost to the Norwegian state over environmental violations.

Norwegian Greenpeace activists approach the West Hercules oil rig in a boat
Image: Greenpeace Norway

Greenpeace activists on Monday climbed on board the West Hercules oil rig, owned by deepwater drilling company Seadrill, in the Norwegian Arctic to protest against new oil drilling.

Four climbers had ascended the oil rig, four people were at the base in kayaks and others were protesting from the shore holding banners saying "ban new oil" and "people versus oil."

"We in Greenpeace, together with another youth NGO, Nature and Youth, are here to protest against new oil drilling, especially from oil fields in the Arctic, which is a vulnerable area," Greenpeace Norway's Communications Manager Aud Hegli Nordo told DW.

The activists hailed from Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Germany.

Read more: Could oil nation Norway help save the climate?

Greenpeace Norway and NGO Nature and Youth activists protest deepwater drilling in the Norwegian Arctic at Seadrill's West Hercules oil rig
Campaigners on the rig hold a placard saying 'stop drilling in the Arctic'Image: Greenpeace Norway

Norway's most northern oil well

The West Hercules oil rig is currently anchored off the Norwegian town Hammerfest, continental Europe's northernmost town, and has been commissioned by Norwegian multinational energy giant Equinor to drill at the site of its liquefied natural gas plant, Snoehvit.

But the oil rig is due to drill oil from the Korpfjell Deep well in the Barents Sea after receiving permission from the Petroleum Safety Authority earlier this year.

It is the most northern license to ever be granted for drilling in Norway, Nordo told DW.

"We have found more oil and gas in the world than we can afford to burn if we are to reach our climate goals, so going and exploring for new oil and gas does not make sense," she added.

Read more: Amazon reef is huge — and under threat from Total oil drilling

German Greenpeace activist Laura Breitkreutz attended the demonstration on Monday and said she was protesting to save the planet for future generations.

"[According to] the latest climate catastrophe report published in October [by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] we only have 11 years left to become as carbon neutral as possible to prevent climate change getting worse," Breitkreutz said.

Energy 'can't be 100% renewable'

Morten Eek, a communication manager at Equinor, told DW Equinor respected Greenpeace's right to protest, but said there will always be a need for oil and gas.

"We fully respect the right to protest like Greenpeace is doing and we urge them to not put themselves in danger [with] illegal actions," Eek said. "If we are to reach the ambitious targets set by the Paris climate agreement and be able to reach those goals, the demand needs to reach its peak sooner rather than later, but in a scenario where the demand for less oil and gas is less, there will still be a need for oil and gas in the energy mix, it can't be 100% renewable."

Eek also said the location of oil production was important. "If you take the production of one barrel of oil, for instance, internationally, that has an average of 17 kilos of CO2 emissions from the production, and in the Norwegian Continental Shelf it is nine," he said.

Greenpeace appeals court verdict

The protest comes as Greenpeace Norway and Nature and Youth prepare to appeal the outcome of a January 2018 court case, in which they sued the Norwegian state for violating the Norwegian Constitution's environmental Article by opening up a vast new area for oil and gas drilling in the Norwegian Arctic.

The appeal will be held at the Appeals Court in November, Nordo said.

DW could not reach rig owner Seadrill for comment.

Norwegen Greenpeace Protest Bohrinsel West Hercules
The West Hercules rig is located off Hammerfest in NorwayImage: Greenpeace Norway