Cairn wins Arctic drilling injunction

Cairn Energy has won an injunction against Greenpeace in a blow to the environmental group’s anti-Arctic drilling campaign.

On Thursday, a Dutch court imposed a penalty on Greenpeace of €50,000 per day if the company’s operations are disrupted, up to a maximum of €1m (£887,000).

The injunction lowers the likelihood that Greenpeace will continue with its campaign of “non-violent direct action” against Cairn, which has seen 20 protesters arrested in just over a week.

The FTSE 100 oil and gas explorer is drilling for oil in the waters of the Davis Strait, off the coast of Greenland.

Two Danish navy ships are patrolling a 500m exclusion zone around the company’s Leiv Eiriksson rig.

Greenpeace has stationed two Amsterdam-registered ships in the area – the Arctic Sunrise and the Esperanza – which have been used to harass Cairn’s operations and drum up publicity.

“Right now we’re digesting the ruling and won’t make any snap decisions,” Ben Stewart, a Greenpeace communications officer aboard the Esperanza told the Financial Times.

The injunction comes after Cairn stopped drilling for 12 hours on Saturday when 18 protesters scaled the legs of the 53,000-tonne Leiv Eiriksson and occupied its platform in an early morning raid.

Earlier, two Greenpeace activists had been arrested after they hung in a “survival pod” strapped to the underside of the rig for four days. Though the injunction is a victory for Cairn, the fine stipulated by the judge is far less than the €2m for every day of halted drilling sought by the company when it applied for the injunction last week.

The company estimates that any drilling delays could cost it $4m per day.

Despite the injunction, Greenpeace said its “struggle to protect the Arctic” would continue. “It will happen on the high seas, in the courtroom, in the high street and the ballot box. This is far from over,” said Mr Stewart.

Greenpeace is demanding to see the Cairn’s full “oil spill response plan” – which has not been released – for use in the event of a spill such as BP’s Macondo disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Arctic is one of the last untapped hydrocarbon basins in the world with estimated reserves of 20bn barrels of oil, according to Wood Mackenzie, the consultancy.

Cairn is spending some $600m (£366m) this campaign to try to tap an estimated 3.2bn barrels of oil equivalent.

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