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Greenpeace's resistance to deepwater drilling in Shetland Islands, United Kingdom


The UK government in summer of 2010 gave permission for new deepwater drilling of the Shetland Islands. [1] US energy giant Chevron welcomed the ruling and was the first in line for permission to explore two prospects, with BP following. The international organization Greenpeace blamed the government "irresponsible", pointing to the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, caused from reckless deep-water drilling. [2] Consequently Greenpeace started a new campaign of direct action using swimmers against a Chevron-chartered ship, Stena Carron, anchored in the Lerwick Harbour, tring to stop it to drill on the Lagavulin area prospect. On September 21, 2010, the campaigners, based on the Greenpeace protest ship Esperanza, attached the Stena Carron's anchors while it was moored in Bressay Sound: two expert climbers spent four days hanging off the ship Stena Carron. [3] One of them said: "Shetland is so beautiful and an oil spill here could devastate this area. It's time to go beyond oil. Our addiction is harming the climate, the natural world and our chances of building a clean energy future." [4]  A Chevron spokesman said: "This kind of action is foolhardy and demonstrates that Greenpeace is willing to put its volunteers at risk to carry out such reckless publicity stunts and we are concerned for the safety of those involved.”

"Chevron's first priority is always safety; we are confident our operations are safe and we can drill deep water wells in the Atlantic Margin safely".[5] Therefore Chevron was granted an injunction at the Court of Session in Edinburgh ordering the campaigners to move on safety grounds. In fact the court immediately ordered Greenpeace to stop its protest on the grounds that it endangered the safety of the vessel and banned the activists from interfering with the vessel's progress.  [6]     Later, the environmental campaigners followed the huge vessel on her way to the Lagavulin prospect where their protest delayed the start of the exploration for several days.[7]  At present, in a context in which the world pushes towards renewable energy, the industrial economy is likely to require a long-term, adequate supply of undersea oil only if it can be extracted cheaply. Chevron, for one, has postponed a big Scottish deepwater project called Rosebank, where the North Sea gives way to the North Atlantic just northwest of the Shetland Islands, judging it not feasible under current rates. But Chevron reclaims the North Sea and is continuing with development of a new field called Alder. And the giant Rosebank project could yet go ahead. Mr. May, a Chevron spokesman said: “We have been here for 50 years,” “We want to stay.”[8]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Greenpeace's resistance to deepwater drilling in Shetland Islands, United Kingdom
Country:United Kingdom
State or province:Shetland Island
Location of conflict:Lagavulin well
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Specific commodities:Crude oil

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The deep-water Lagavulin prospect is 160 miles north of the islands.

Well 217/15-1z, on the Lagavulin prospect was spudded in October 2010 and drilled in 1,567 metres water depth. Total depth was reached on 10 June 2011. Hydrocarbons and a working petroleum system have been confirmed, however no workable reservoir system was found to be present at this location and the well will be plugged and abandoned.

The well was drilled with the Stena Carron drillship. Faroe Petroleum, the independent oil and gas company focusing principally on exploration, appraisal and production opportunities in the Atlantic margin, the North Sea and Norway, announced ( 13-06-2011) that drilling has reached target depth on the Lagavulin exploration well (Faroe 10%), operated by Chevron, in the UK Atlantic Margin to the west of the Shetland Islands.[9]

Type of populationUnknown
Start of the conflict:2010
Company names or state enterprises:Chevron Polska Energy Resources Sp. z o.o. from United States of America
Faroe Petroleum from United Kingdom
Relevant government actors:The UK government;
The Court in Edinburgh;
Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc)[1]
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Greenpeace international

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Global warming, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Greenpeace's protest was useless to prevent the project, but they gave media visibility to this situation and following the Chevron's huge vessel on her way to the Lagavulin prospect, their protest delayed the start of the exploration for several days.[5]

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Arne Jernelöv , The Threats from Oil Spills: Now, Then, and in the Future, 24 August 2010

[1]Terry Macalister, Shetland deepwater wells likely to be approved in face of Greenpeace action, The Guardian, 27 September 2010

[2]BBC NEWS, Chevron gets Lagavulin drilling clearance off Shetland, 1 October 2010

[3]Greenpeace International, Activists stop Chevron deepwater drilling ship off the Shetland Islands, 21 September, 2010

[4]Press Association, Greenpeace activists tie themselves to anchor of Shetland oil-drilling ship, The Guardian, September 21, 2010

[5]Severin Carrell, Greenpeace claims activists could occupy Shetland oil-drilling ship for up to a month, The Guardian, September 22, 2010.

[6]BBC NEWS, Greenpeace swimmers end drill ship blockade, 29 September 2010

[7]Shetland News, Lagavulin well abandoned, 13 June 2011

[8]STANLEY REED, Chevron and North Sea Rivals Race to Keep an Oil Region Relevant, JUNE 2, 2015

[9]Worldoil, Chevron completes drilling on Lagavulin well, June 13, 2011

BBC News, Faroe Petroleum to abandon Lagavulin well, June 13, 2011

Severin Carrell, Chevron wins court order in bid to end Greenpeace oil protest, The Guardian, 24 September 2010.

Severin Carrell, Greenpeace claims activists could occupy Shetland oil-drilling ship for up to a month, The Guardian, September 22, 2010.

Richard Rogers, Greenpeace forced to end North Sea oil drilling protest, The Guardian, 26 September 2010

Caption contest: Big Ship

Blogpost by JulietteH - 27 September, 2010 at 14:57

We're out of the water, but it's not over

Blogpost by James - 29 September, 2010 at 21

Swimming against the tide - the things people do to stop deepwater drilling

Blogpost by Leila Deen - 28 September, 2010 at 11:30

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Greenpeace UK, Attaching our survival pod to the Stena Carron, September 22, 2010.

"We've stepped up our action against the Chevron-operated drilling ship Stena Carron in the waters off Shetland where - in addition to climbers Victor and Anais on the anchor chain – a custom-built survival pod has been brought into play.

Two metres in diameter and weighing half a tonne, it's also been attached to the anchor chain. The drilling ship was due to leave shortly to drill exploratory deep water wells in the Lagavulin oil field - but now isn't going anywhere.

We're here to stop dangerous deep water drilling in UK waters, which resulted in the Gulf oil disaster earlier in the year. Greenpeace campaigner Leila is on hand to tell you more..."

Meta information

Contributor:Myriam Bartolucci, EjAtlas internship researcher, [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2226



Greenpeace activist Victor Rask in position on the Stena Carron ship off the Shetland Islands.

Press Association, Greenpeace activists tie themselves to anchor of Shetland oil-drilling ship, September 21, 2010

Go Beyond Oil

Greenpeace environmental campaigners swim out in front of an oil drilling ship, chartered by Chevron, in an effort to stop it sailing to a deepwater drilling site off Scotland. Photograph: Will Rose/Greenpeace/PA. Terry Macalister ,Shetland deepwater wells likely to be approved in face of Greenpeace action, The Guardian, 27 September 2010