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Greenpeace activists board Shell oil rigs in protest against plans to leave behind oil in the North Sea

Scotland, UK – WEBWIRE
Protests on Shell Brent Oil Platforms in the North Sea
© Marten van Dijl / Greenpeace
Protests on Shell Brent Oil Platforms in the North Sea Credit: © Marten van Dijl / Greenpeace

Greenpeace activists from the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark boarded two oil platforms in Shell’s Brent field today in a peaceful protest against plans by the company to leave parts of old oil structures with 11,000 tonnes of oil in the North Sea. Climbers, supported by the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior, scaled Brent Alpha and Bravo and hung banners saying, ‘Shell, clean up your mess!’ and ‘Stop Ocean Pollution’.

According to Shell, it plans to leave parts of four Brent oil platforms at sea with a total of around 640,000 cubic metres of oily water and 40,000 cubic metres of oily sediment, containing more than 11,000 tonnes of oil.[1] A ban on dumping installations and platforms in the North East Atlantic ocean was agreed in 1998 by all members of the OSPAR

Commission. Shell has requested an exemption from the UK government.[2]

“Shell’s plans are a scandal and go against international agreements to protect the environment. With escalating climate emergency, biodiversity loss and species extinction, we need healthy oceans more than ever. Abandoning thousands of tonnes of oil in ageing concrete will sooner or later pollute the sea. Shell must be stopped,” said Dr Christian Bussau, Greenpeace campaigner on board the Rainbow Warrior. “We urge OSPAR governments to protect the ocean and not cave in to corporate pressure.”

The UK government is willing to approve Shell’s plans when OSPAR meets in London on 18 October. Germany has filed an official objection. The Netherlands will also object and the European Commission has raised serious concerns.

“The UK government cannot claim to be a global oceans champion while allowing Shell to dump thousands of tonnes of oil in the North Sea,” said Dr Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist. “If ministers allow Shell to bend the rules, this will set a dangerous precedent for the decommissioning of hundreds of ageing North Sea platforms in the coming years. Shell made billions from drilling for oil in this region – they shouldn’t be allowed to scrimp and save on the clean-up at the expense of our marine environment.”

“Oil in the base of Shell’s platforms will reach the sea as the concrete structures rot and collapse. Shell’s plans leave a ticking time bomb and that is totally irresponsible,” added Bussau.

In 1995, public support for the Brent Spar campaign pushed Shell to agree to dismantle the oil tank and loading platform on land instead of dumping it in the sea. The campaign also led to OSPAR’s decision in 1998 to ban such dumping in the North East Atlantic.

“Shell is directly fuelling the climate emergency that is causing more extreme storms, floods, droughts and wildfires and bringing misery to millions of people around the world. The company’s reckless business threatens some of the world’s most important ecosystems with extinction and has to be stopped. For us to have a future, toxic oil companies like Shell must have no future,” said Bussau, who was also part of the 1995 Brent Spar protest.

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[1] Data from two Shell reports: Brent Field Decommissioning Environmental Statement, Feb. 2017; and Brent Decommissioning Derogation Assessment, Nov. 2018, OSPAR consultation.

[2] Shell claims that there is no alternative to leaving parts of the oil platforms in the sea with their contents. But two reports commissioned by the Dutch and German governments, show that Shell’s plans contradict OSPAR decisions, and that they should instead remove the toxic residues and dispose the contents on land in an environmentally sound manner.

[3] The Rainbow Warrior is operated by Greenpeace International. The climbers are from Greenpeace Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. Dr. Christian Bussau is a marine biologist at Greenpeace Germany.

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