Shell Wins Lawsuit to Keep Activists Off Brent Platforms

Greenpeace protesters board the remains of Brent Bravo, October 2019 (Greenpeace UK)

By The Maritime Executive 12-04-2019 04:25:02

Royal Dutch Shell has won a lawsuit to prohibit Greenpeace protesters from boarding inactive and decommissioned platform structures at the Brent field in the UK North Sea. 

In a ruling issued this week, Judge Lady Carmichael of the Edinburgh Court of Sessions found that the installations are private property and that Shell has the right to restrict access to them. In addition, she found that the aging structures could pose a hazard to unauthorized personnel due to their physical condition. 

The ruling reinforces an existing 500 meter exclusion zone within which marine traffic is not permitted to enter. 

"This is a setback. Greenpeace has almost 50 years of experience with safe and peaceful protest," Greenpeace UK said in a statement. "We strongly believe in the right to protest and will keep defending it. Shell can try to shut us up, but we will only get louder."

In October, Greenpeace activists climbed the remains of the Brent Bravo production platform in protest of Shell's plan to abandon four platform jackets and the oily waste they contain. The topsides platform for Brent Bravo has already been lifted off and carried away, but the jacket remains. 

In theory, Shell is required to remove the entirety of its aging Brent facilities under the terms of the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR), according to Greenpeace. However, Shell has asked the British government for an exemption in order to leave jacket elements in place. The platform's jacket designs are emblematic of early offshore oil and gas development in the North Sea. They are gravity-based structures (GBS) - massive reinforced concrete pedestals weighing about 300,000 tonnes, with giant oil storage cells at the bottom and long legs up to the surface. Today, the concrete jackets contain an estimated total of around 640,000 cubic meters of oily water and 40,000 cubic meters of oily sediment.

“Abandoning thousands of tonnes of oil in aging concrete will sooner or later pollute the sea,” said Dr. Christian Bussau, a Greenpeace campaigner with the mission. 

Shell's engineers say that the GBS structures were not designed for easy removal and that refloating them would involve an "extremely high" technical and safety risk.