North Sea Numpty Award

Here we acknowledge the companies behind Scotland’s worst climate violation: the continued exploitation of North Sea Oil! A just transition from oil and gas is most definitely needed, yet 91% of oil workers have not even heard of a just transition or what it entails. We blame the government, media and private actors reinforcing the status-quo for this state of affairs. 

But who will win this most sought after award? Will it be the old guard of big oil companies? Or the new guard of shadowy private equity firms?

Vote below in one of our most coveted categories.

Our Nominees

BP

First in our sights is a little known company called British Petroleum (BP). Once named Anglo-Persian Oil Company as they raided Middle-Eastern resources, BP have made a monumental contribution to the climate crisis, coming in at No.6 in historical global carbon emissions. BP have been involved in the unforgiving climes of the North Sea ever since companies started drilling deep for hydrocarbons. Indeed, When North Sea oil was discovered, then energy minister Tony Benn wanted to bring BP’s North Sea assets into public ownership. Hard to imagine that now! His proposals were considered too radical (read too beneficial to the public at large) and rejected in favour of BP shareholders becoming the main beneficiaries from North Sea oil. 

Lenient legal penalties for oil spills offer them free reign to put environment harms low down in priorities, making a mockery of offshore petroleum regulations and barely scratching their profits.

 

BP’s involvement in the region may not quite be as dominant as it once was, but contrary to their recent climate virtue signaling, they sit on the North Sea’s largest oilfield and continue to obtain new exploration contracts. A large historical contributor to the North Sea, they are a no brainer for our ‘North Sea Numpty’ Award.

Oil and Gas UK (OGUK))

Welcome back OGUK for a second nomination! A 2017 Influence Map report places OGUK at the forefront of corporate networking for the oil and gas industry in the UK, pushing for a ‘lighter tax burden’ for this already under-taxed sector. At least internally, OGUK remains pretty open about this. In their 2019 membership pack, Deirdre Michie, CEO of OGUK proclaimed that OGUK ‘…stand up for the issues that matter to your business by engaging with governments, regulators, and the media’. Indeed, further on in the membership pack (pg7) they advertise that their engagement with the UK Government led to tax revisions, saving the sector over £100m a year.

Nicola Sturgeon next to OGUK’s CEO Deridre Michie (left). Source: Flickr

We’re surprised that this laissez-faire regime (and OGUK’s role) hasn’t received more media coverage, although intrepid organisations such as Scot.e3 have highlighted the laxity of the regulatory framework for oil and gas. But when there is media coverage, who steps up to defend the current set up? Why OGUK no less! Fancy that! When planned North Sea investments are called out for breaching climate targets, up steps OGUK’s Mike Tholen to defend the sector. When Greenpeace occupy climate-wrecking BP infrastructure, OGUK’s Gareth Wynn bravely steps forward to defend our ‘need’ for the sector. When an employment lawyer comments on the general stripping back of employment rights in the sector, here’s OGUK’s Alix Thorn to proclaim that they don’t ‘recognise those claims’. If anything, we’re rather impressed by their efforts, since in every report a different OGUK employee seems to be shilling for the industry. Clearly the work pays the bills and then some. It also gets them nominated for awards, including our ‘North Sea Numpty’ Award!

Shell

Royal Dutch Shell weighs in at number seven on the list of historical global carbon emissions, possessing a rap sheet any evil overlord would be proud of. This despite condescending PR campaigns designed to convince you otherwise. Now, whilst Shell have taken a financial hit during Coronavirus, the public purse may not have noticed as Shell avoids tax in the UK. 

 

Nicola Sturgeon (centre), Aberdeen Council representatives and Shell Director Steve Phimister (first on left) celebrate the opening of a new Innovation Hub at the Oil & Gas Technology Centre, 2017. Source: Climate Action Scotland.

 

Shell has been ever present in the North Sea and are owners of perhaps the most famous North Sea site: the Brent Field, which shares its name with the famous oil price index. Brent has produced a staggering 2 billion barrels of oil and 5.7 trillion cubic feet of gas, as of 2008. In the North Sea, Shell have teamed up with their partner-in-crime (and fellow climate liars), ExxonMobil, in a 50/50 joint venture scheme. Both partners now appear keen to reduce their presence in the North Sea, as all the ‘easy’ oil has been extracted. 


Shell were recently been taken to task by Greenpeace for dumping tons of waste into the North Sea – not for the first time, some of us may remember. Extinction Rebellion Scotland and Greenpeace have staged bold actions on oil rigs, which has led Shell to express agreement with activists’ desire for change, whilst also filing protest-blocking injunctions against said activists. Nothing but a North Sea Numpty we say. Vote for Shell if you agree.

Chrysaor

The face of the North Sea is changing. It is a ‘mature’ asset, meaning that oil and gas becomes harder to extract and importantly, less profitable. Consequently, many of the typical bad guys like BP and Shell are less interested in the North Sea. But there is still money to be made and little-known Chrysaor are at the forefront of this sea change.

Chrysaor’s corporate logo. A wild-boar-turkey-pegasus. Says it all really. Source: pbs.twimg.com

With the oil majors stepping back, private equity firms (firms not publicly listed on the stock exchange) have stepped in to extract the declining profits from the North Sea. Chrysaor is not only the biggest North Sea private equity firm, but they are now the biggest producer of oil in the North Sea today. They have achieved this partly by voraciously acquiring North Sea assets from other companies, such as Shell (for $3.8 billion) and ConocoPhillips (for $2.7 billion). They also recently acquired North Sea rival Premier Oil, showing that capitalism still tends towards monopoly. 

Chief executive Phil Kirk has said that ‘he hoped that in 20 years’ time his company will be ‘pretty close’ to meeting net-zero emissions from its oil and gas production assets’ while at the same time continuing to produce over 200k barrels a day! Private Equity firms are the new suits on the block in the North Sea and Chrysaor are the UK’s leading independent North Sea Oil and Gas group. So we have picked them as a nominee for our ‘North Sea Numpty’ Award!

INEOS

INEOS is a multinational chemicals company owned by infamous tax dodger Jim Ratcliffe: a prominent Brexiteer and UK’s 5th richest person, living the wine-swilling life in Monaco. It also happens to be Scotland’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, with The Ferret highlighting a SEPA report, which stated that INEOS’s ‘Petroineos oil refinery at Grangemouth emitted ‘1.6 million tonnes of the gas’. 

 

In only five years, INEOS has become a very big player in the exploitation of Oil and Gas reserves in the North Sea. Their purchase of Danish company Dong Energy’s entire North Sea Operations in 2017, at a value of $1 billion dollars, included ownership of ‘Ormen Lange, the second largest gas field in Norwegian waters, Laggan-Tormore, a new gas field west of Shetland, and oil and gas hubs in Denmark’. On sealing the deal, Henrik Poulsen, CEO of DONG Energy, said ‘We have been actively working to get the best transaction by selling the business as a whole to ensure its long-term development and, with INEOS, we have obtained just that.’ A rather cynical statement for a company touting its green credentials no? 


INEOS are ‘commitment to our Oil & Gas business and supports the Government’s strategy to maximise economic recovery of gas from the North Sea’. Indeed, in 2018 they sought to extend the lifespan of their oil and gas investments in the North Sea as far as possible, including a $80m investment into a new pipeline and sub-sea equipment for the Clipper South field in the Southern North Sea. Furthermore, in 2019 as reported in Energy Voice, ‘Ineos announced it was investing £500 million to extend the life of the Forties Pipeline System by ‘at least 20 years’ in a move hailed by industry leaders as a show of faith in the North Sea’s future. Surely a strong contender for our prestigious ‘North Sea Numpty’ Award!

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