Totalenergies' FSRU Cape Ann; Credit: Jean Nicholas Guillo/Greenpeace

Eleven arrested after activists expressed their ire over arrival of TotalEnergies’ FSRU in France

After a floating storage regasification unit (FSRU), chartered by TotalEnergies, arrived in France to start its new job at Le Havre, environmental activists took steps to express their dissatisfaction with the arrival of this LNG unit in French waters. These actions have led to the arrests of nine activists and two photojournalists.

Totalenergies' FSRU Cape Ann; Credit: Jean Nicholas Guillo/Greenpeace

The FSRU Cape Ann, previously known as GDF Suez Cape Ann, left the Tianjin LNG terminal of Pipe China on March 30, 2023, to start its new Le Havre job in north France. This LNG unit worked in Tianjin for almost a decade, after starting the assignment in November 2013 as the first FSRU in China under a sub-charter deal with CNOOC. The 2010-built 145,130-cbm FSRU supplied over 7 bcm of gas.

TotalEnergies chartered the LNG unit from Hoegh LNG, Japan’s MOL, and Tokyo LNG Tanker. The oil major’s TotalEnergies LNG Services France (TELSF) is in charge of installing France’s first FSRU-based facility in Le Havre. This expands the country’s LNG facilities, which entail four existing onshore LNG terminals, encompassing Elengy’s three LNG terminals and the Dunkirk LNG facility.

Furthermore, the FSRU project in Le Havre was anticipated to enable France to increase its regasification capacity by around 5 bcm per year. The FSRU Cape Ann was expected to start its service in France in September 2023 to ensure the country’s energy security during the Ukraine crisis, according to the French government. While TotalEnergies will be in charge of operating the FSRU, GRTgaz is set to operate the connecting pipeline to the gas transmission network.

However, everyone is not happy with this development as demonstrated by Greenpeace France activists, who protested against the arrival of the 280-meter-long LNG unit. Some of the activists painted the message “Gas Kills” on the hull of the FSRU Cape Ann, while those on board canoes and kayaks carried banners reading “Total: shale dealer,” “Macron: shale dealer,” and “End Fossil Crimes.” This comes as activists around the globe are getting ready to take part in the Global End Fossil Fuel Mobilisations, calling on all leaders to end the era of fossil fuels.

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Hélène Bourges, Oil, Transport, and Ocean Campaigner at Greenpeace France, commented: “This LNG terminal is yet another blatant example of ‘shock doctrine,’ where gas operators shifted their public messaging and lobbying from ‘energy transition’ to ‘energy security’ and cynically used the opportunity after the energy supply concerns triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine to frighten governments into massive, unneeded investment into and expansion of fossil gas imports and infrastructure.

“The only beneficiaries of the LNG gas infrastructure in Le Havre are TotalEnergies, the operator of the floating terminal, and its shareholders, whose private interests and gains prevail over climate action and people’s health, with the complicit support of the French government that granted an unprecedented legal preferential regime to set up this operation.”

Following, what Greenpeace France deems to be “climate action,” to denounce the arrival and launch of the FSRU Cape Ann in the port of Le Havre, eleven people were placed in police custody around 12 p.m. Four of these people were released on the evening of September 18, 2023, with two being released without charge. The other two are being summoned to a hearing at the Le Havre Judicial Court on January 9, 2024, for acts of intrusion into a port facility outside a restricted access zone, punishable by six months of imprisonment and a fine of €7,500.

Clara Gonzales, Lawyer at Greenpeace France, remarked: “It is a massive security system which has been put in place to ensure the installation of a fossil fuel infrastructure which will aggravate the climate crisis and mainly serve the economic interests of the oil and gas major TotalEnergies. For having protested in complete non-violence, in the name of the climate emergency, our activists were kept in police custody for 24 hours, the maximum duration.”

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The remaining seven people were kept in police custody for almost 24 hours until they were released on Tuesday, September 19, 2023, around 12 p.m. These are summoned on October 1, 2024, for maritime offenses linked to acts of navigation and collision. They are facing up to two years of imprisonment and a fine of €30,000.

Edina Ifticène, Fossil Fuels Campaign Manager at Greenpeace France, stated: “We will continue to mobilize against any new fossil infrastructure, in line with the warnings of climate scientists on the subject, and we will continue to denounce the double talk of President Macron and his government in matters of climate and energy policy.”

According to Greenpeace France’s reports, the gas intended to supply the LNG terminal in Le Havre comes largely from U.S. shale gas, in contradiction with France’s own policy that bans fracking on its territory because the technology is “harmful” to the climate and has “deadly” impacts on the health of local populations in sourcing areas.

While President Macron committed to making France the first major nation to abandon fossil fuels in February 2022, Greenpeace points out that this LNG terminal is instead expected to increase imports of liquefied natural gas into France and will fuel the attempts to boost the production of shale gas in the United States.

Moreover, recent data from Disclose and Greenpeace France called into question the usefulness of the LNG terminal in Le Havre for the energy independence of France and its European neighbors, aiming to show that this infrastructure is unneeded, even in the event of a cold winter, contrary to what the French Ministry of Energy Transition claims.

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In addition, an earlier investigation by Greenpeace International on the influence of the gas lobby in Europe to promote a boom of liquefied natural gas highlighted how decisions on energy infrastructures were strongly influenced by facilities operators, who have a solid interest in making new infrastructures see the light of day for their own profits.

Greenpeace is adamant that the extreme weather events across the world remind us of the need to rapidly move away from fossil fuels, thus, the activists see the installation of a new LNG terminal for five years as an unsustainable option, in particular as additional fossil fuel infrastructure projects are under study, based on the data from Greenpeace France and Disclose.

Additionally, Greenpeace reports outline that Europe needs to act quickly to drastically cut fossil fuels, investing massively in energy efficiency and consumption reduction and developing renewable energies for all.

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While environmentalists and climate activists turn up the heat on fossil fuels by trying to put a swift end to their development, the oil and gas industry is still very much in the game and well-positioned to keep its spot in the future energy mix, especially natural gas, which is often seen as a bridge fuel to a carbon-free world. 

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