Greenpeace to turn up the heat on oilfields

As Shell and BP prepare to siphon crude fuel from two seabed sites, environmentalists refocus on threat of climate change

Greenpeace is to campaign against the development of Britain's most important new offshore oilfields. The environmental pressure group is keeping its options open for the seaborne direct-action tactics which are its hallmark.

The Foinaven and Schiehallion fields, in the Atlantic, west of the Shetland Isles, are the great hope for the future of Britain's oil production industry with reserves worth billions of pounds. Exploiting the two fields would secure hundreds of jobs and bring in hundreds of millions of pounds in tax revenue.

But Greenpeace says the oil should be left undisturbed below the seabed to reduce the threat of man-made climate change. Whenever fossil fuels such as oil are burnt they produce carbon dioxide, which traps solar heat in the atmosphere, giving rise to the so-called "greenhouse effect".

It will be the first time Greenpeace has tried to stop an oilfield development on climate protection grounds.

``This should not come as a surprise,'' said Peter Melchett, the executive director of Greenpeace UK. ``At some point we are going to have to draw a line in the sand over this issue.''

Lord Melchett, a junior minister in the last Labour government, has written to the Prime Minister, John Major, to say that the production of oil on the "Atlantic frontier" west of Shetland was incompatible with Britain's declared aim of tackling the global warming threat. ``There is a very serious contradiction at the heart of your Government,'' he wrote.

``At international meetings you lead calls for action ... at home, in Britain's backyard, you encourage the exploitation of fossil fuel reserves.''

But Mr Major's four page reply said there was no case for banning fossil fuels, and that the area west of Shetland ``is being opened up for exploration in an environmentally sensitive manner.''

Greenpeace is not satisfied with this, and intends to keep putting pressure on the Government and the oil companies operating west of Shetland. BP has the largest interest, followed by Greenpeace's old Brent Spar adversary, Shell.

``We never rule out direct action. If we're going to survive as humans on this planet we have to protect the climate from drastic, destructive change,' said Lord Melchett. Greenpeace wants the big oil companies to invest in non-polluting, renewable energy sources like solar power instead of fossil fuels.

A spokesman for BP said there was no question of abandoning the Atlantic frontier.

``I guess we're going to have to disagree with Greenpeace. Everything we take for granted in our society - warmth, transport, plastics - comes from fossil fuels. But our solar-power subsidiary is one of our fastest growing divisions.''

The new fields would play an important part in sustaining oil production from the North Sea well into the next century, he added. Production is expected to go into a long, gradual decline after reaching its all-time peak this year.

The oil companies are investing some pounds 1.5bn in exploiting the Foinaven and Schiehallion fields, with most of the money spent in Britain. The reserves are put at over 400 million barrels, worth around pounds 4bn.

Bringing the oil in these areas to the surface is not easy. Oil companies must cope not only with the huge waves and high winds found in the North Sea, but also with much deeper water - well over 1,000 feet - and powerful, variable sea-bottom currents.

Extracting the oil requires a new, radically different production system. The wells are drilled from a floating rig, but the valves which control the flow of oil out of them are installed on the sea floor rather than on a platform at the surface. Because it is far too deep for divers the installation is carried out using remote-control, submersible equipment.

A huge tanker-like vessel, called a floating production system, is then anchored above the well-heads, and kept pointing into the wind and waves. The crude oil is carried up to it through hoses which are linked to a swivelling turret. The oil is stored on board and unloaded directly into visiting tankers. BP hopes to start production at the Foinaven field in the next few months.

Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary