Rig operator Transocean and environmental group Greenpeace are due to appear in court on Monday over last year’s 12-day protest in the North Sea against supermajor BP’s plans to drill for more oil.
The Switzerland-based drilling contractor is taking legal action against Greenpeace UK after activists blocked its Paul B Loyd Jr rig from drilling at BP’s Vorlich oilfield in June 2019.
The stand-off between Greenpeace and BP delayed the journey of the drilling rig for six days as activists climbed on board one of the semi-submersible's legs as it was preparing to leave the Cromarty Firth, Scotland.
Once at sea, the rig and its support vessels were forced to turn away three times after Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise ship prevented it from reaching the oilfield to start development drilling.
Transocean secured an interim interdict, with BP’s consent, which Greenpeace is accused of breaching by continuing its protest.
A total of 11 Greenpeace activists were arrested and charged in relation to the incident, as well as three freelance photographers, who were subsequently released.
On Monday, in Edinburgh’s Court of Session before judge Lady Wolffe, Greenpeace will argue that its actions to disrupt the BP rig were necessary in order to prevent the supermajor from worsening the climate emergency by drilling wells to extract 30 million barrels of oil.
Greenpeace UK said its executive director John Sauven faces up to two years in prison, and Greenpeace itself faces unlimited fines if found to be in contempt of court.
Sauven said: “Six months after our rig action ended, and after getting a permanent interdict against Greenpeace, BP’s rig operator Transocean is desperately doing everything it can to scare us off.
“But we will not be silenced. We will stand up proudly in court to defend our peaceful protest.
“Stopping BP’s rig was our moral duty when faced with oil giants fuelling the climate emergency, threatening the safety of our planet and putting lives at risk,” he said.
Transocean, which is being represented by law firm Pinsent Masons, was unavailable for immediate comment.
Vorlich, a two-well development located 241 kilometres east of Aberdeen, will be tied back to the Ithaca Energy-operated FPF-1 floating production facility, the centrepiece of the Greater Stella Area production hub.
The development is expected on stream in 2020.
However, in a separate legal case, Greenpeace has been granted permission to judicially review BP’s drilling permit for the oilfield.
Greenpeace argued that BP's permit is unlawful because there was no “proper public consultation”.
“The permit was never officially published by the government, which meant BP’s permit could not be challenged by the public,” the group said earlier this month.
At a hearing in UK’s High Court in London, Justice Lang granted Greenpeace permission to proceed with the judicial review against the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
UK supermajor BP was named solely as an interested party.