The Norwegian state oil giant branded as “illegal” Greenpeace’s latest attempt to stop drilling on the prospect in the Hoop area, as the activist group’s ship Esperanza sits on the drill site.
That action led Norwegian authorities to impose an exclusion zone around the drill site, something Greenpeace appealed against on Friday.
The appeal was made on the grounds that “the zone cannot be applied as Statoil … failed to follow rules of notification,” Greenpeace had contended.
“Under international law, ‘due notice’ must be given for the establishment of a safety zone.”
That appeal has been rejected, however, Statoil said.
“The appeal concerned the company’s discharge permit, and the decision from the Ministry of Climate & Environment states that drilling does not violate the general guidelines for petroleum activities in the Barents Sea,” the oil giant said on Friday afternoon.
“Statoil is thus permitted to conduct the drilling operation as planned, including drilling in oil-bearing layers.
“The exploration activity now has all the authority approvals needed to start up.”
Greenpeace hit back on Friday, however, saying that the rejection will only deepen its resolve.
Campaign manager in Norway Truls Gulowsen said: “The Environment Minister says that this part of the Arctic ocean isn’t particularly sensitive or valuable. We disagree.
“The winter iceline is only 25 km away, and the Bear Island nature reserve could be engulfed within less than a week of an spill, according to Statoil’s own analysis.
“This will strengthen our resolve. We will continue our legal occupation of Statoil’s drill site and public pressure will continue to grow.”
Arguing its case for exploration, Statoil continued: “The Apollo prospect is located in the Barents Sea, where more than 100 exploration wells have been drilled over the last 34 years.
“This is an area Statoil knows well; its geology is familiar, it has low pressure and temperature, and the company participated in an exploration well 50 kilometres further south (the Wisting well) just last year.”
Irene Rummelhoff, senior vice president for exploration on the Norwegian continental shelf at Statoil, said: “Greenpeace has once again performed an illegal action. Statoil respects people’s right to make a legal protest, and we feel it is important to have a democratic debate around the oil industry.
“Our exploration drilling on Apollo is taking place in an area which has been impact assessed, opened up and awarded by Norwegian authorities.
“We have established robust plans for the operation, and feel confident they can be carried out safely and without accidents.”
Statoil aims to drill two further wildcats this summer at the nearby Atlantis and Mercury prospects using the same rig.