Extinction Rebellion Norway

Oil & gas infrastructure in six North Sea countries hit by ‘unprecedented’ blockades

With heatwaves sounding the alarm over the worsening climate crisis, environmental activists have put more stock into joining hands with their peers in neighboring countries to strike at the fossil fuel infrastructure simultaneously in a bid to raise public awareness and force governments to rethink their energy policies. Activists from the UK, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands have embarked on a wave of new climate action by setting up blockades to certain fossil fuel infrastructure in these North Sea countries.

Extinction Rebellion Norway

This move, which is deemed to be “an unprecedented act of coordinated international climate protest” by the activists involved in the acts of civil disobedience under the campaign ‘North Sea Fossil Free’ is directed against new North Sea oil and gas extraction, as the governments of these six countries are permitting such extraction. The groups involved in these protests across the North Sea believe that new fossil fuel infrastructure will harm the North Sea ecosystem and commit the world to “dangerous” levels of warming.

These six countries, linked through the exploitation of shared waters, are often portrayed as trailblazers in the green transition arena. However, climate campaigners claim not only that these nations are enabling global giants like Equinor, Shell, and TotalEnergies to open new oil and gas fields, but also that none of these major North Sea fossil fuel-producing countries have plans to curtail drilling in alignment with the 1.5°C target, based on a recently published report.

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Therefore, activists have come together to demand that all countries align their drilling plans with the Paris Agreement, instead of enabling new oil and gas extraction sites to spring up in the North Sea despite international climate pledges.

The groups mention the Rosebank oil field in the UK, deep seabed mining in Norway, and the re-opening of the Tyra II gas field in Denmark, as projects responsible for accelerating the global climate and ecological crisis. In addition, they note that a large part of all oil processed in the refineries in ​​​​Sweden’s Gothenburg harbor is extracted from the North Sea. 

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Furthermore, activists use the reports from the IPCC, UNEP, and IEA to hammer home that expanding oil and gas production will take the world far off course for the climate goals, as the CO2 budget to stay below 1.5°C is forecast to run out in about five years if extraction and burning of fossil fuels keeps going at the current rate.

The activists remind that UNEP 2021 warned of the inconsistency between net zero targets and continued investments in new fossil infrastructure. On top of this, António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, described investment in new fossil infrastructure as moral and economic madness.”

Which actions are being taken across North Sea countries?

In the Netherlands, Extinction Rebellion and Scientists Rebellion took steps to block all main access roads to Shell’s Pernis refinery, said to be the largest refinery in Europe. The oil major plans to increase and expand production in the North Sea, thanks to a permit for new gas drilling at the Victory gas field.

Last April, the UK giant also resumed production from the Pierce field. The activists claim that the company is “allowing the old drilling platforms and pipelines in the North Sea to rust away,” adding that these “disintegrating oil and gas pipelines in the North Sea can poison the sea with mercury, radioactive lead and polonium.”

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On the other hand, climate activists from Ende Gelände obstructed access to the floating LNG terminal in the industrial port of Brunsbüttel to demand “an immediate stop” to imports of liquefied natural gas, according to environmental groups. A floating LNG terminal, which is in operation in Brunsbüttel, will be replaced by a fixed terminal in 2026/27.

While LNG is portrayed as an alternative to continued North Sea gas extraction, the activists are adamant that this is not a cleaner fuel that will help the energy transition. For them, LNG is perceived to be more harmful to the environment than coal in most cases.

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With this at the forefront, Ende Gelände was protesting the establishment of the LNG terminal being built along the North Sea coast in Germany, as analysts underlined that the establishment of LNG infrastructure would lock the world into fossil fuel use for the coming decades.

Three other North Sea countries – Denmark, Sweden, and Norway – were also undergoing blockages, with Extinction Rebellion Norway shutting down the Rafnes petroleum refinery in Norway and XR activists being on their way into the security zone with a boat.

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Dozens of activists also obstructed the main entrance on land, refusing to move, putting the possibility of arrests on the table. In addition, XR Sweden members blocked the road to the Oil Harbour in Gothenburg. This does not come as a surprise as the group has been taking action against the harbor since May 2022.

Scotland did not escape these protests either as local groups showed their support with their peers across other North Sea countries with banner drops in locations of – what is believed to be – strategic importance to the proposed development of new North Sea oil and gas.

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XR Forres organized performances from the black-clad ‘oil slicks’ performance troupe at a coastal location on the Moray Firth, which activities are convinced would be devastated in the case of an oil spill.

Jonas Kittelsen, spokesperson for XR Norway, commented: “I’m ashamed to be a Norwegian. Norway profits massively from aggressively expanding our oil and gas sector, causing mass suffering and death globally. My government portrays us as better than the rest of the world, which we are not.” 

Moreover, Shetland Stop Rosebank dropped banners at Lerwick Harbour, which is the main port supporting the first phase of the proposed Rosebank oil and gas field. Additionally, the offices of Equinor and Ithaca, who own 80% and 20% of Rosebank respectively, were targeted on March 16 in Aberdeen with banners that said: ‘North Sea Fossil Free,’ ‘Stop Rosebank,’ and ‘Sea Knows No Borders.’

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“Northern Europe’s oil and gas addiction is not only creating an ecological crisis in our own backyards, we are also fueling and profiting from the global climate crisis with no regard for people in the most affected areas. We acknowledge this devastating irony,” emphasized activist groups in a joint statement.

These environmental groups demand no new oil and gas infrastructure in the North Sea, a stop to all plans to license and financially support projects with new fossil infrastructure immediately, and alignment of drilling plans with the Paris Agreement.

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“Governments and companies must be honest about climate change. We demand honesty regarding energy security and affordability, because North Sea oil and gas will not make energy more affordable​​​​​​. Governments must stop their jobwashing of new offshore projects. There are no jobs on a dead planet,” the groups added while emphasizing the need to take action toward a just green transition.

The activists are convinced that people and the environment can only be protected by creating – what they describe as – “genuine and viable alternatives to fossil domination,” which in their book means no LNG expansion, credible alternatives for workers, consideration for wildlife, and letting people decide through citizens assemblies.

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Bram Kroezen, spokesperson for XR Netherlands, noted: “The fossil industry and our governments want us to believe that gas from the North Sea is clean, but clean gas is a dirty lie.”