Oil and gas chiefs are today to hold crisis talks in an effort to bring to an end a “dangerous” stand-off between climate activists and oil giant BP.
Greenpeace has spent 10 days preventing the giant drilling rig, Paul B Loyd Jr, from reaching rich fields in the North Sea.
The platform was forced to abort its journey for a third time yesterday as the campaigners blocked its path with an icebreaker ship and two inflatable launches.
The stand-off between the two organisations is understood to have already cost BP more than £1.5 million.
Insiders fear the protest could also damage the industry’s reputation and frighten off investors already concerned by growing worldwide climate activism.
And as Greenpeace pledged to continue its operations, saying it was “not here to play games”, Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) revealed late last night that it would convene an urgent board meeting.
It said the summit was being held to “support the efforts” of police and in the hope it would “trigger a range of actions”.
Yesterday’s protests were carried out without any presence from the police or government agencies, while there has been no apparent intervention from senior officials.
The Press and Journal contacted a number of those leading UK energy policy last night, including Scottish energy minister Paul Wheelhouse and UK energy interim chief Chris Skidmore, but none responded to requests for comment.
BP itself said it was feeling “increasingly frustrated” about the situation and accused Greenpeace of “dangerous PR stunts” that risk both life and property.
An industry source, meanwhile, said: “No one seems to be standing up for the business.”
Activists on board the Greenpeace Arctic Sunrise vessel have spent much of the last three days chasing the drilling rig – and the 90 or so workers on board – across the central North Sea.
Activists have targeted BP for more than a week, initially stopping the rig leaving the Cromarty Firth by climbing on board and refusing to leave.
Police made several unsuccessful attempts to remove protesters, even lowering the rig into the water in an attempt to reach them.
Ten people have now been charged with occupying the drilling rig. BP has also made a number of legal challenges in an effort to stop the Arctic Sunrise from interfering with the drilling rigs progress.
In a statement issued yesterday, Sarah North, a Greenpeace International activist on board the vessel, said: “There’s only one U-turn BP urgently needs to make and that’s away from climate-wrecking oil and towards renewable energy.”
But a BP spokesman said: “BP supports discussion, debate and peaceful demonstration, but the irresponsible actions of Greenpeace put themselves and others unnecessarily at risk.
“We share the protesters’ concerns about climate change. We support the Paris Agreement and are committed to playing our part to advance the energy transition.
“However, progress to a lower carbon future will depend on coming together, understanding each other’s perspectives and working to find solutions, not dangerous PR stunts that exacerbate divisions and create risks to both life and property.”
OGUK communications director Gareth Wynn said: “Our industry is engaged in a meaningful conversation about how we decarbonise the products and energy that are at the heart of our everyday lives.
“It’s frustrating that Greenpeace instead chooses to resort to dangerous stunts and refuses to grasp the basic fact that reducing domestic supply will just mean more reliance on imports.”