Greenpeace Vorlich oilfield challenge ‘largely opportunistic’

11:21 03 September in Latest News

Greenpeace protest

A Greenpeace challenge against the UK government over a decision to allow a North Sea oilfield is “largely procedural and opportunistic”, a court has heard.

The environmental group believes permission should not have been granted for the Vorlich field.

At the Court of Session, it is calling for the decision to be overturned, and for BP’s permit to be revoked.

Three judges are now considering a ruling after the two-day hearing.

The Vorlich field is 150 miles east of Aberdeen.

Greenpeace said it was the first time an offshore oil permit had ever been challenged in court and that if it wins, the case could have huge ramifications, such as for the Cambo field off Shetland.

On Wednesday, Ruth Crawford QC for Greenpeace had said Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng had been “deprived” of information about the environmental impact it could have.

Roddy Dunlop QC, representing the UK government, said on Thursday that the indirect effects of eventual burning of oil and gas from the Vorlich field were not “material considerations”.

Mr Dunlop said: “The overall direct emissions from the development of the Vorlich field forms part of the government’s clean growth strategy that includes the setting of carbon budgets for the United Kingdom.

“The challenges advanced by Greenpeace are largely procedural and opportunistic.”

Ms Crawford said Greenpeace wanted proper public participation in important developments such as the Vorlich oilfield.


Greenpeace protestor

Production from the Vorlich development started in November after BP was granted approval by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) in 2018.

Jim Cormack, representing BP and Ithaca, said the challenge was “highly significant” as if it were overturned, production from the field would have to stop at least until a substitute consent could be obtained.

He said the works for which consent was granted had been implemented by BP and Ithaca at a cost of about £230m and the project was fully operational and in the production phase.

Ross McClelland, representing the OGA, also told the court that its position was that operations would have to stop.

Mr Dunlop urged the judges, who are hearing the case virtually, not to quash or reduce the consent.

He said: “The first respondent (the UK government) is concerned that there could be health and safety issues associated with mothballing the Vorlich field and that would be the consequence of the order if the consent were to be reduced, then the field can’t be operated lawfully and it would have to be a shutdown with serious consequences.”

Lord President Lord Carloway, Lord Menzies and Lord Pentland deferred judgment and said they would issue a decision “as soon as we can”.

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