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Shell’s Chuckchi Seas withdrawal: a ‘dazzling sleight of hand’ re: Goliat



Card tricks for beginners: In a deft, almost dazzling sleight of hand, global Big Oil has pulled off a classic bait and switch move in the Arctic. In comparison to the Goliat platform that begins producing Arctic oil from confirmed fields in the Barents Sea next month, Shell’s Polar Pioneer rig is an aged and rickety piece of machinery. UK Tar Sands Network writes.

Shell’s Polar Pioneer, the bright yellow rig that left Seattle for the Chuckchi Seas in June 2014 was built in 1985, is 400ft tall and has a holding capacity of 15,063 barrels of oil. While the Goliat FPSO is a new, state-of-the-art, cylindrical platform that’s 574ft tall, has a 17 storey elevator transporting its 120 workers to a cinema, hotel or gym and has a holding capacity of a million barrels of oil. It’s mooring lines are the biggest ever made at 3 feet wide.

In summer 2015, Shell were still only exploring for oil in American owned Arctic territories, whereas ENI the Italian oil and gas company had already long invested in a 60/40% deal with Norway’s Statoil in Goliat an off-shore oil field in the Barents Sea where oil had been struck in 2000.

The journey of Shell’s Polar Pioneer was full of much gripping drama as its ice-breaker failed and was forced to dock in Portland on July 25 where it was greeted by inspiring resistance. The campaign against Shell by numerous environmental and indigenous groups was loud and successfully gained important traction in conveying scientific facts and moral opposition to Arctic drilling into mainstream media and consciousness.

Meanwhile however, the Goliat platform had left the Ulsan shipyard in South Korea where it was built, on February 14, 2014. From here it sailed across the Indian Ocean, around South Africa, north to the British Isles and arrived at its destination in Hammerfest Southern Norway on April 17. Since then workers have been working around the clock to connect all the various technical operations eg. the colossal rig is powered via the world’s most powerful from-shore AC cable by the Norwegian electricity grid.

On June 5 the Norwegian government announced that it would divest $8bn of its $900bn sovereign wealth fund from coal.

The Goliat oil and gas field is the world’s northernmost development project and sits between the Russian sector of the Barents Sea and Greenland (Denmark). It’s expected to yield 34m barrels a year or 178m barrels over a 15 year period. Or, to put this into context, 2 to 3 days of the world’s oil consumption that’s estimated to be at 93m barrels a day.

On African Reuters today it was reported that the Goliat platform has yet to gain permission from the Norwegian authorities. “There is still some work left to do at Goliat,” Petroleum Safety Authority spokeswoman Eileen O’Connell Brundtland said. “As long as that remains unfinished, the authority will not give its consent, which is required to start operations.” This is in contrast to the ENI insider who announced to the FT yesterday that Goliat platform and production is “there, it’s connected, it’s done. It’s starting in a few weeks”

Oil insiders will reason that the Barents Sea is more temperate, ice-free and a safer place to conduct off-shore drilling but UK Tar Sands Network wants to strongly affirm that slowly sliding to a mindset where Arctic drilling becomes socially acceptable is in direct opposition to the bottom line – in order to remain under the 2degree global temperature rise all Arctic oil must stay in the ground.

Shell may well have announced that they’re pulling out of their Arctic drilling operations in Alaska (less than 24 hours after it was announced in the FT that ENI’s drilling operations are beginning in the Barents Sea) but UK Tar Sands Network, who stood in solidarity with Arctic nations resisting environmental destruction and fossil fuel extraction in the Chuckchi seas, emphatically repeats the message ‘Ni Ici Ni Ailleurs.’ Not here not anywhere.

Norway cannot meaningfully claim to be a pioneer in renewable energy solutions if it’s divesting from coal on the one hand while slinking into the Arctic while no one is looking.