Activists storm Russian oil rig

2012-08-24 20:01
Greenpeace Executive Director Kumi Naidoo (bottom) shows a thumbs up as he and other activists board Gazprom’s ‘Prirazlomnaya’ Arctic oil platform somewhere off Russia north-eastern coast in the Pechora Sea. (AFP)

Greenpeace Executive Director Kumi Naidoo (bottom) shows a thumbs up as he and other activists board Gazprom’s ‘Prirazlomnaya’ Arctic oil platform somewhere off Russia north-eastern coast in the Pechora Sea. (AFP)

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Moscow - Six activists from Greenpeace scaled a Gazprom oil platform on Friday to protest against the Russian energy giant's Arctic drilling plans and were sprayed with icy water in an effort to chase them away, the environmental group said.

The activists, including Greenpeace's global chief Kumi Naidoo, climbed the platform at the Prirazlomnoye oil field after reaching it in inflatable speedboats from a Greenpeace ship nearby at about 04:00.

They brought several days' supplies, but after several hours clinging to the side of the rig in tents pitched on small scaffolds, they said ice-cold water was being sprayed on them from above, according to blog postings and a witness on the ship.

"The hosing is now very intense ... but we are going to stick it out as long as we can," a Greenpeace Twitter account quoted an activist as saying. Activists also reported chains dropping from above, a witness on the ship said.

Violation

Gazprom declined to comment on those reports. Earlier, the company said the activists had violated a 500-metre navigation security zone around the platform in the Pechora Sea, a southern part of the Barents Sea off Russia's north coast.

"They were invited to climb up to the platform to conduct a constructive dialogue" but refused, Gazprom said in a statement, adding that work was continuing on the platform as usual.

The Prirazlomnoye field, Russia's first Arctic offshore oil development, has been plagued by delays, cost overruns and platform construction difficulties, and crude is now expected to flow at the end of the year.

"The only way to prevent a catastrophic oil spill ... in this unique environment is to permanently ban all drilling now," Greenpeace quoted Naidoo as saying from the platform.

Vital field

Prirazlomnoye is estimated to hold reserves of 526 million barrels, and success in launching Arctic oil exploration is seen as vital to sustaining Russia's long-term status as the world's top oil producer.

But environmental campaigners say the Arctic's extreme conditions - remoteness, fragile ecosystems, darkness, sub-zero temperatures, ice and high winds - are likely to hamper emergency operations in case of an oil spill.

Greenpeace plans to promote a resolution at the UN General Assembly soon that would declare the Arctic a global sanctuary to prevent any oil drilling and unsustainable fishing there.

A similar sanctuary in Antarctica was created 20 years ago, when the mining industry was banned from operating there.

State-controlled Russian oil giant Rosneft has concluded deals in recent months with Exxon Mobil, Italy's Eni and Norway's Statoil to drill for oil in the Arctic and other areas.

BP, Shell and Total have also started or plan to start drilling for oil and gas in Arctic regions, spurred by high commodity prices and concerns about future energy security.

The Arctic is estimated to hold at least 32% of the world's undiscovered oil and gas reserves and the region is becoming more accessible as global warming melts sea ice.

Read more on:    greenpeace  |  environment

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