Shell goes to court to stop Greenpeace protests at Brent oil field rigs

Shell is out of favour with the under-30s. Photo: Maarten van Dijl/Greenpeace
Activists hung banners on the rig remains in October. Photo: Maarten van Dijl/Greenpeace

Oil giant Shell is going to court in an effort to stop environmental group Greenpeace demonstrating on or near four North Sea oil rigs – which it plans not to dismantle fully.

The case will be heard in a Scottish court on Thursday and comes after the British government said that Shell could leave the foundations of the rigs on the sea bed after decommissioning. Just one of the rigs in the Brent field is still working.

Greenpeace says leaving the foundations, which include tanks containing 11,000 tonnes of oil, will cause an environmental disaster. But Shell argues removing the concrete structures will be extremely dangerous for drivers and that they will break down without causing problems over time.

Greenpeace Nederland director Joris Thijssen said it was disgraceful that Shell is trying to take away people’s right to protest. ‘Shell is one of the biggest polluters worldwide and is trying take away this fundamental right,’ he said.

Shell said that while it supports the right to demonstrate, the safety of oil rig workers and demonstrators remains paramount.


In October, the Dutch government said that it too wants Shell to clean up the foundations of oil and gas platforms in the British part of the North Sea.

The comments by infrastructure minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen follow the publication of a report on the decommissioning operation which recommends the clean up be carried out, as agreed over 20 years ago in international treaties.

The licence request ‘does not sufficiently support’ the claim that leaving the foundations and storage units, which contain polluted material, is the best option from an environmental or safety point of view, the minister told Dutch MPs.

The Netherlands, she said, will join Germany in making a formal protest about the plan to leave the rig foundations in place.

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