Greenpeace Climb Gazprom Arctic Oil Rig to Protest Drilling

Greenpeace activists scaled OAO Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya platform in the Arctic to protest drilling plans on Russia’s first major oil project in the ocean.

Six ecologists, including the environmental organization’s executive director Kumi Naidoo, approached the rig in inflatable speedboats and occupied it earlier this morning, Greenpeace said in an e-mailed statement. “The activists are out of reach and have enough supplies to last them for several days,” it said.

Gazprom, Russia’s biggest company by market value, in May forecast it would start production at the Prirazlomnoye field in the fourth quarter. The $7 billion project in the Arctic’s Barents Sea has been delayed by about five years by technical issues and underfunding. The deposit is expected to yield as much as 6.5 million metric tons of crude annually, helping President Vladimir Putin’s plan to maintain Russia’s oil output.

Gazprom Neft Shelf, the Gazprom subsidiary that holds the license for the field, said the Greenpeace activists were invited to come onboard for a “ constructive dialog.” They declined the offer, Gazprom Neft Shelf said in an e-mailed comment.

Work at the platform continues as planned, it said.

Targeted Vessels

Greenpeace, along with other environmental organizations, has opposed drilling plans in the Arctic. The ecologists have targeted vessels operated by Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) and Cairn Energy Plc (CNE), which explore for oil and gas in the polar ocean that’s partly covered by sea ice.

The environmentalists claim the Gazprom platform is operating without an official oil spill response plan. The company’s response plan was approved in July 2007 for five years, Greenpeace said.

“The company would be completely unprepared to deal with an accident in the Far North, and would rely on substandard clean-up methods — such as shovels and buckets — that simply do not work in icy conditions,” Greenpeace said.

Gazprom Neft Shelf said it has special vessels and boats for oil collection, marine and coastal booms, sorbents, remotely operated skimmers and other means for prevention and oil spill response.

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