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Greenpeace oil field defeat ‘a victory for energy security’

Greenpeace staged a protest over the rig (pic: Greenpeace)

Greenpeace’s failed attempt to stop drilling at a North Sea oil field has been welcomed by the industry as “a victory for common sense and for the UK’s energy security.”

The environmental group wanted to overturn the UK Government’s decision to grant BP a permit to drill the Vorlich Field in the North Sea.

Greenpeace argued in Scotland’s highest civil court that there had been “a myriad of failures in the public consultation”. It claimed the permit did not consider the climate impacts of burning fossil fuel.

However, judges at the Court of Session said that the government’s decision to grant a permit was lawful. The ruling means operations will continue at the field.

In a written ruling, Lord Carloway, the Lord President, said: “It would not be practicable, in an assessment of the environmental effects of a project for the extraction of fossil fuels, for the decision maker to conduct a wide ranging examination into the effects, local or global, of the use of that fuel by the final consumer.”

Michael Tholen, sustainability director at oil and gas body OGUK, said: “This is a victory for common sense and for the UK’s energy security.

“If the ruling had gone the other way, it would have generated uncertainty among the hundreds of companies involved in producing the nation’s oil and gas.”

Greenpeace said it plans to appeal before the Supreme Court.

John Sauven, UK executive director for the group, said: “The government is celebrating a win for the fossil fuel industry after its lawyers argued in court that emissions from burning oil extracted by BP are ‘not relevant’ when granting an oil permit.

“And now the Prime Minister is poised to sign off even more oil if he approves a new oil field at Cambo – against official guidance from climate experts.

“In just a few weeks’ time Boris Johnson will be opening global climate talks where his actions, not his words, will be what counts – and right now his actions are covered in oil.”

The government has said that it plans to introduce climate compatibility checks for new licences before next year.

Permission to drill the Vorlich site off Aberdeen was given to BP by the Oil and Gas Authority in 2018.

Mr Tholen at OGUK said those in the oil and gas industry would be relieved that the ruling had not favoured Greenpeace’s claims.


“They might spend millions of pounds on getting a new oil or gas field licensed only to see it revoked by a court action,” he said.

“Such a ruling would make them far less willing to invest in new fields, leading directly to a sharp decline in the UK’s oil and gas production and making the UK more reliant on imports. The current crisis in global gas supplies and resulting price rises shows clearly the risks of increasing our reliance on other countries. 

“The UK’s offshore oil and gas industry is actively supporting efforts to cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. We agree that reducing demand for oil and gas is essential to achieving that.

“Right now, however, the UK gets 73% of its total energy from those fuels. There are 23m homes heated by gas which also generates 40% of our electricity.

“We also have 32m vehicles that need petrol or diesel. Cutting off our own indigenous supplies before we have reduced such demands will just make us more reliant on imports. That would undermine our own energy security without cutting emissions.”

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