Greenpeace Protests Arctic Drilling Offshore Russia

A Greenpeace International vessel entered the Northern Sea Route offshore Russia Saturday, despite being denied entry by the Russian government, to protest Rosneft OAO and ExxonMobil Corporation’s plans to drill for oil in the Kara Sea offshore Russia.

The Arctic Sunrise entered the Northern Sea Route early Saturday morning to protest adjacent to the park. Rosneft and ExxonMobil plan to jointly explore the Vostochno-Prinovozemelsky-2 concession, which includes 11,119 acres (4,500 hectares) in the Russian Arctic National Park. Greenpeace said the plans to drill in the park directly contradict Russian environmental law.

The environmental group reported Aug. 21 that the Russian government had denied the Arctic Sunrise entry to the Kara Sea. Greenpeace said the ship met full requirements for entering Russian waters and said the refusal of entry was a “clear attempt” by the Russian government to stifle oil industry criticism.

As the ship approached the Northern Sea Route, Greenpeace called on the Northern Sea Route Administration to reassess the unjustified refusal of entry. The decision was not reversed, but the vessel entered the Kara Sea.

“We refuse to let illegal attempts by the Russian government to stop us from exposing dangerous oil drilling in the Arctic,” said Christy Ferguson, Greenpeace Arctic campaigner on board the Arctic Sunrise.

The Russian Arctic National Park was established in 2009 to develop tourism in northern Russia. Ferguson noted that Rosneft has acquired onshore and offshore acreage inside Arctic protected areas, including the Bolshoi Arctichesky Nature Reserve, Franz-Josef Land Nature Reserve and the Wrangel Island Reserve, which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Arctic Sunrise is on a month-long expedition in the Arctic to protest oil exploration in the region. Ferguson said that, by bringing in offshore drilling platforms, Rosneft and ExxonMobil would risk catastrophic blowouts that could “devastate the region”, destroying the habitats of polar bears, walruses and other creatures.

Greenpeace previously protested against Royal Dutch Shell plc’s plans to drill offshore Alaska and plans by other operators to drill offshore Greenland. In August 2012, Greenpeace activists raided a Gazprom drilling rig to protest the company’s Russian Arctic oil exploration plans.

Rosneft and ExxonMobil signed an agreement in August 2011 to jointly explore for hydrocarbons in the Kara and Black seas. Other companies such as Statoil ASA are exploring for Arctic hydrocarbon resources in the Barents Sea.

The oil and gas industry has previously explored for hydrocarbons in the Arctic, but has set Arctic drilling in its sights again in recent years, citing the need to tap additional oil and gas resources as the amount of untapped resources from more easily accessible areas dwindles. According to ExxonMobil’s website, the company has over 80 years of experience exploring the Arctic for oil and gas.

In 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimated the Arctic to contain approximately 90 billion barrels of oil, 1,669 trillion cubic feet of gas and 44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids, according to an Ernst & Young report on Arctic oil and gas.

Russia is estimated to hold over half of the total Arctic oil and gas resources and the largest amount of Arctic natural gas resources. Forty-three of the 61 large oil and gas fields discovered since the 1960s lie in Russia, the most of any nation with territory in the Arctic, according to Ernst & Young. The South Kara Sea offshore Assessment Unit is estimated to account for approximately 2.5 billion barrels oil, 622,222 billion cubic feet of gas and 19,479 million barrels of natural gas liquids, according to a 2010 USGS report.


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