Greenpeace blocks Equinor’s tanker from discharging ‘produced water’ in Denmark

A small group of Greenpeace Nordic activists has taken action to prevent a tanker carrying potentially harmful waste from the Norwegian oil industry to be discharged in Denmark.

Image credit: Greenpeace, Activists from Greenpeace Nordic block Equinor’s tanker, claiming that the waste is toxic and illegal

Utilizing divers and magnets underwater, the activists attached a small sailboat to the hull of the tanker Bothnia, which is transporting approximately 9,000 tonnes of wastewater, sourced from Equinor’s refinery at Mongstad, Norway.

Prominent legal experts in Norway have expressed their view that this export may be in violation of the Basel Convention, an international treaty established to regulate the export of hazardous waste, Greenpeace said.

As explained by the NGO, the so-called “produced water” is a byproduct of oil production, which is brought to the surface when the oil is extracted.

“We demand that Equinor immediately halts its illegal export of toxic waste to Denmark. For too long, Equinor has avoided taking responsibility for its waste and instead passed the problem onto our neighbours in Denmark to deal with. This has to stop”, said Tale Hammerø Ellingvåg, campaigner at Greenpeace Nordic.

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The Greenpeace activists held up banners with the message  “Equinor = toxic”, and painted “EQUITOX” on the side of the tanker. 

Cinta Hondsmark from Greenpeace Nordic is onboard the sailboat Tanker Tracker: 

“I’m taking action today to send a clear message to Equinor that its illegal transport of toxic oil water to our neighbouring country Denmark will no longer be accepted. Equinor is killing our oceans and it has to stop. Our demand is simple: Equinor must immediately stop the export and clean up its own mess”, said Cinta Hondsmerk, an activist from Norway. 

The operation was carried out as a sign of protest against the Norwegian oil industry’s export of wastewater to Denmark, a practice that has been going on for more than twenty-five years.

Greenpeace said that Norway’s state-owned oil company Equinor is one of the main companies involved in the export, with an estimated 150,000 tonnes of ‘toxic water’ exported to Denmark each year, where it is treated before being released into Danish waters.

The organization insists that even after being separated and treated, the water ‘still contains low concentrations of oil and toxic chemicals that can be harmful to humans and nature.’

“The current treatment is unable to remove harmful toxic and carcinogenic chemicals such as PFOS and PAHs from the water, and local people have reported a dramatic decline in fish populations in the areas where the wastewater is discharged,” Greenpeace claims.

In 2020, Denmark rejected Equinor’s application to continue exporting toxic wastewater to Denmark. However, Equinor found a loophole and kept exporting the waste via the Danish company RGS Nordic. RGS took over Equinor’s export and has admitted to the Norwegian broadcaster NRK that the emissions affect the ecosystems of Agersø Sound, and that it is unable to comply with all the environmental quality requirements in place, Greenpeace said. 

Furthermore, a report from Aarhus University concluded that 80 percent of the samples gathered at the emission site between 2005 and 2020 contained excessive concentrations of the chemical substance PFOS, a so-called forever chemical. The report also concludes that the concentration of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, or PAHs, is so high that immediate and lasting damage has been inflicted on the marine environment. Certain PAHs can cause damage to DNA and be carcinogenic.