Greenpeace steps up campaign against Kara Sea drilling

Protesters from Greenpeace in the water outside the rig yard in Ølen, western Norway.

The Greenpeace vessel “Esperanza” is protesting in Ølen in western Norway where the West Alpha oil rig is being prepared by ExxonMobil for the joint drilling with Rosneft in the Kara Sea later this summer.


“ExxonMobil plans to go drilling in the most extreme, remote and harsh location in the Arctic this year. We need to stop ExxonMobil, and other oil companies such as Statoil, Gazprom and Rosneft. An oil spill in these icy areas will be impossible to clean up, and there is no point to go to these extreme areas to drill for oil that the world cannot afford to burn anyway - if we are to stay within safe climate targets,” says Truls Gulowsen, Campaign Manager Greenpeace Norway.

While Greenpeace argues against the drilling they claim threatens the magnificent wildlife at the nearby Novaya Zemlya Russian National Park, Rosneft’s CEO Igor Sechin says the Kara Sea drilling might start ahead of schedule. Talking to Reuters at a government meeting on Russia’s energy sector in Astrakhan by the Caspian Sea, Sechin said the Kara Sea drilling had been scheduled to begin in mid-August, but could be moved forward depending on the weather. 

A map of the sea ice extent for June 6 shows that the east coast of Novaya Zemlya is already open water. The map, posted by Climate4you, is compared with a map of June 6 last year when practically the entire Kara Sea was covered by ice. The drilling to be carried out by ExxonMobil with the West Alpha rig will take place in the northern part of the Kara Sea.

Simultaneously as the Greenpeace vessel “Esperanza” was near the oil rig yard in Ølen, activists unfurled a large banner at the Bislett stadium in Oslo with the message “No Arctic Oil.” ExxonMobil is main sponsor of the Bislett Games, an annual international sport game. 

“ExxonMobil is trying to dazzle people with fancy events and the shine from some of the world´s brightest athletes. But we will not be fooled. With this illuminating protest we will put their dirty plans for the Arctic in the limelight,” says Truls Gulowsen with Greenpeace in a comment to the protest. 

ExxonMobil has multiple areas of exploration interest in the Russian Arctic. With the 2011 strategic cooperation agreement with Rosneft, a 125,000 square kilometers across three blocks in the Kara Sea are now up for exploration. That is an area equivalent in size to the total acreage in the entire U.S. Gulf of Mexico.ExxonMobil says in a brochure that safety is well taken care of, the company has the industry’s longest history of Arctic experience and is best positioned to take on future challenges in the region. In Russia, ExxonMobil are active at the Arctic Sakhalin-1.

According to the Huston Chronicle, the Kara Sea drilling project will cost $600 million.