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Greenpeace slams Denmark’s OK of new oil production as out of line with climate goals

A new oil and gas field is set to be productive by 2027, but the climate group wants a national regulator to claw back the license over environmental concerns.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (CN) — Greenpeace Denmark says the country is reneging on its environmental and climate responsibilities by greenlighting a multinational company's permit to operate an oil field in a new complaint to the national energy regulator.

The Danish Energy Agency gave British multinational industry giant Ineos the OK on April 26 to proceed with plans to extract oil and gas in the Hejre field, 185 miles off the west coast of Denmark.

The permission was purely ”administrative,” according to the agency, as it builds on a decades-old license going back to 1998, when energy producer Ørsted, then DONG Energy, originally discovered the field.

In 2017, as part of its shift toward renewable energy, Ørsted sold the oil field to Ineos after years of struggles to get the platform operational and productive.

“We have made a juridical complaint, as we believe that the permission is illegal. Our hope is to put a stop to all plans of extracting oil and gas from the Hejre field already this summer,” said Helene Hagel, political advisor at Greenpeace.

On May 29, the climate organization filed a legal complaint in collaboration with law firm Kontra Advocates to the Danish Energy Complaints Board, saying that Ineos has not delivered a comprehensive evaluation of the oil field’s impacts on climate.

The nongovernmental organization also argues that opening a new oil platform in the North Sea directly clashes with Denmark’s obligation to try to limit global warming by 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F).

Hagel said that current assessments on the project’s scope-3 emissions — the climate impact once the oil is burned in other countries — date to 2012 and should be updated.

Since then, there have not been any open hearings to allow NGOs, interest groups or politicians to weigh in on Ineos’ handling of the Scandinavian oil. For that reason, Greenpeace appealed to Danish Climate Minister Lars Aagard to halt the permission.

“For a year, we have tried to stop the Hejre field politically. It did not work, so now we must fight back with juridical means,” said Hagel.

Aagard has declined to comment on the case.

In its approval, the Energy Agency underlined Ineos' ability to create “an alternative and commercial strategy” for the oil field, backed by a detailed 264-page-long environmental report, mapping out the main environmental risks during phases of construction, production and decommissioning.

Ineos includes waste-handling plans for chemicals and radioactive materials and outlines marine-life and water-protection regulations under Danish, EU and international law.

Experts predict oil and gas from the Hejre field will make up 7% of the total Danish North Sea output. The field itself is very deep, making it extra costly and tricky to operate in due to the high pressure, according to Morten Hahn-Pedersen, a historian and specialist in Nordic oil extraction.

He noted that the Hejre field has been in development for an unusually long time, partially because of the significant drop in oil prices in 2014. The only reason operations can now go ahead is because the license is grandfathered in and won't expire until 2047.

He said the field offers an opportunity for Denmark to increase its energy independence.

“We have to remember that the Danish extraction of coal and hydrogen is very limited, especially when compared with our neighbor country Norway, but also the Middle East. The more oil we can produce ourselves, the less we have to import,” said Hahn-Pedersen, adding that Ineos has to pay substantial taxes and charges for each barrel, boosting the national treasury.

Ultimately, the government can channel the money from the Hejre field into developing more sustainable energy technologies, he said. The Energy Agency estimated that the area could contain more than 50 million barrels of oil.

At Greenpeace, however, they hope to stop the plans quickly, before Ineos makes further investments. The organization looks toward Norway, where climate activists last year won a similar lawsuit against the government for allowing a large-scale expansion of the famous Yggdrasil offshore oil project.

The Ineos group declined to comment.

The board is expected to rule on the complaint in the next few months.

Categories / Energy, Environment, International

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