Northwest Europe's Greenpeace window

June 8, 1998
Northwest Europe's offshore operators are used to the region's weather window, but now it appears there is a Greenpeace window as well. At the end of last year, Greenpeace suspended its interruption of exploration and development along the Atlantic frontier on account of bad weather. Now the protesters are back. The campaign group's Stahlratte (the literal translation from the German is 'steel rat') twin-masted schooner set off in pursuit of the Ocean Alliance
David Knott
London
[email protected]
Northwest Europe's offshore operators are used to the region's weather window, but now it appears there is a Greenpeace window as well.

At the end of last year, Greenpeace suspended its interruption of exploration and development along the Atlantic frontier on account of bad weather. Now the protesters are back.

The campaign group's Stahlratte (the literal translation from the German is 'steel rat') twin-masted schooner set off in pursuit of the Ocean Alliance semisubmersible drilling rig. The rig is drilling a wildcat on Norwegian Sea Block 6505/10 for Norske Shell AS.

On May 19, Greenpeace announced Stahlratte had left Oslo harbor to start the group's 1998 offshore campaign to stop oil exploration (OGJ, May 25, 1998, Newsletter).

Offshore action

On May 31, a Danish activist chained himself to one of the rig's legs, which he reached on an inflatable boat deployed from Stahlratte. He foiled the attempts of the Stirilos standby vessel to prevent him from boarding the rig.

Robbie Kelman, a Greenpeace campaigner, said: "This is the first Greenpeace offshore direct action to halt oil exploration in the Nordic sector of the Atlantic Frontier. Greenpeace will be operating across the frontier to stop oil developments."

On the morning of June 2, the Norwegian Coast Guard arrested six further activists attempting to board the rig from inflatables. Then six Coast Guard officials and a police office boarded Stahlratte and seized control.

Greenpeace complained that the Coast Guard took control despite the fact that Stahlratte was in international waters. The police officer and three Coast Guard officials remained on board to sail the ship to Kristiansund, Norway.

Even as the activists harried Ocean Alliance, Greenpeace's London headquarters pushed forward on another front, breaking the news that a U.K. wind farm operator has begun work on the country's first offshore wind power plant.

Border Wind Ltd., Hexham, U.K., plans to install two 750-kw wind turbines on separate foundations, in 5-10 m of water 1 km off the coast north of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, U.K.

Marcus Rand, Greenpeace's renewables campaigner, said the U.K. government should make this the first of many offshore wind farms.

"Investing in renewable energy is the only sane way forward," said Rand. "It will make reducing carbon emissions from fossil fuels possible, contribute to tackling climate change, and create thousands of jobs. This is what the Department of Trade & Industry should be issuing licenses for, not new oil exploration."

Waiting on weather

Meanwhile, Border Wind was suffering a problem familiar to the offshore oil and gas industry. A small jack up platform chartered by the company to collect seabed sample cores was being held in port pending a break in bad weather.

The new offshore wind farm will deliver electric power to a small substation onshore, for delivery to the national grid. Border Wind already operates a 2.7-MW, nine-turbine wind farm, installed on a pier extending into Blyth Harbor.

A Border Wind official said that, while this will not be the world's first offshore wind farm-Denmark beat the U.K. to it-it will hopefully be the first of many off the U.K. The company is already studying the feasibility of building more.

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