Shell curbs North Sea oil production as strikes bite

Oil major Royal Dutch Shell said Tuesday it had suspended production on its North Sea field of Knarr after staff working the Norwegian continental shelf went on strike, adding to supply worries in the world's oil market.

Shell curbs North Sea oil production as strikes bite
File photo: Håkon Mosvold Larsen / NTB scanpix

“Knarr's production has been stopped because of the strike,” company spokeswoman Kitty Eide told AFP, adding that the field's output is around 23,000 barrels per day.

The shutdown was prompted by around 100 people at Knarr going on strike as part of a wider stoppage by nearly 670 people working on nine platforms or ships in the region.

They are members of the Safe union and striking over wages and pensions.

Employers association Rederiforbundet said that unions had now also issued a strike call to 900 additional staff who could take action at the weekend, potentially affecting another 20 sites.

That strike could have “huge consequences for the reputation, the economy and employment” in the oil sector, warned Jakob Korsgaard, who is negotiating on behalf of bosses.

The Norwegian strikes are adding to supply worries that have pushed the oil price higher in recent weeks.

In addition to Washington's efforts to stop anyone from buying Iranian oil, production outages in Libya, Venezuela and Canada have also been causing the global crude market headaches.

For now, however, the impact of the stoppages on Norway's overall oil production is limited.

The Nordic country, Europe's biggest oil producer, last year clocked up an average output of nearly 1.6 million barrels per day.

READ ALSO: Oil-rich Norway struggles to beat its 'petroholism'


NGOs take Norway to European Court over Arctic oil exploration

Two NGOs and six young climate activists have decided to take Norway to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to demand the cancellation of oil permits in the Arctic, Greenpeace announced on Tuesday.

NGOs take Norway to European Court over Arctic oil exploration
Northern Norway. Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash.

It’s the latest turn in a legal tussle between environmental organisations Greenpeace and Young Friends of the Earth Norway on one side and the Norwegian state on the other.

The organisations are demanding the government cancel 10 oil exploration licenses in the Barents Sea awarded in 2016, arguing it was unconstitutional.

Referring to the Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit global warming to less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the organisations claim that the oil licenses violated article 112 of Norway’s constitution, guaranteeing everyone the right to a healthy environment.”

The six activists, alongside Greenpeace Nordic and Young Friends of the Earth Norway, hope that the European Court of Human Rights will hear their case and find that Norway’s oil expansion is in breach of human rights,” Greenpeace said in a statement.

In December, Norway’s Supreme Court rejected the claim brought by the organisations, their third successive legal defeat.

READ MORE: Norway sees oil in its future despite IEA’s warnings 

While most of the judges on the court agreed that article 112 could be invoked if the state failed to meet its climate and environmental obligations– they did not think it was applicable in this case.

The court also held that the granting of oil permits was not contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, in part because they did not represent “a real and immediate risk” to life and physical integrity.

“The young activists and the environmental organisations argue that this judgment was flawed, as it discounted the significance of their environmental constitutional rights and did not take into account an accurate assessment of the consequences of climate change for the coming generations,” Greenpeace said.

On Friday, the Norwegian government unveiled a white paper on the country’s energy future, which still includes oil exploration despite a warning from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The IEA recently warned that all future fossil fuel projects must be scrapped if the world is to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The Norwegian case is an example of a global trend in which climate activists are increasingly turning to courts to pursue their agenda.