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Banks and Arctic drilling


Arctic drilling and its impacts

The United States Geological Survey estimates that 30% of the world's undiscovered gas and 13% of the world's undiscovered oil is to be found north of the Arctic Circle. Of this oil, 84% - approximately 90 billion barrels - is expected to be found offshore, some of it in deepwater. Harsh conditions, low temperatures, operational windows cut short by the winter freeze-over, icebergs that threaten to collide with rigs and a delicate ecology that requires meticulous protection all conspire to make oil production here difficult, risky and expensive, possibly more so than any other region in the world.

Many social and environmental issues characterize Arctic drilling including:

  • the contribution to climate change with some parts of the Arctic among the fastest warming areas on the planet, and the massive Greenland Ice Sheet losing ice at record rates,
  • the impact of climate change which threatens the livelihood of local communities, 
  • the health impacts from contaminated water, species, and influence on air quality, 
  • the very high vulnerability of Arctic ecosystem to oil spills,
  • the important threats towards wildlife. 

As Greenpeace, Platform and FairPensions showed in their May 2012 report "Out in the Cold", all these risks have an impact on the financial returns of such exploration projects. Oil spill risks, high extraction costs, doubts over the amount of commercially recoverable reserves, and a precedent of cost overruns and delays combine to raise questions about the commercial viability of some proposed Arctic projects.

Arctic Drilling 'dodgy deals'

Sakhalin II oil and gas project: The Sakhalin II project in the Russian Far East is said by project sponsors to be the largest integrated oil and gas project in the world.  Sakhalin II is one of the first and oldest dodgy deals BankTrack members have been tracking now for nearly a decade.

Greenland Arctic drillingGreenpeace International recently launched an international campaign to save the Arctic, targeting several companies including Cairn and Shell. The banks which financed those companies have also been and continue to be exposed. 

What must happen

To avoid the devastating impacts of their investments, private banks must take steps to disengage from all activities and projects that substantially contribute to climate change and environmental and communities degradation, by ending support for all new oil extraction and delivery.

Back to Banks, Climate and Energy

activists from Greenpeace are taking direct action against oil drilling in the Arctic. Source: Greenpeace

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activists from Greenpeace are taking direct action against oil drilling in the Arctic. Source: Greenpeace

activists from Greenpeace are taking direct action against oil drilling in the Arctic. Source: Greenpeace


Under the Stena Don oil rig
Jun 21, 2011 - An amazing Greenpeace action to stop oil drilling in fragile Arctic waters has come to a close, but the activists are still in police custody after scaling an oil rig that “looked unclimbable” and spending over 40 hours “suspended above the churning Arctic waves through freezing winds.” Source: Planetsave (

Kumi Naidoo scales Cairn's Arctic oil rig
Jun 21, 2011 - In a small boat launched from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza Kumi Naidoo, the Executive Director of Greenpeace International crossed into an exclusion zone and scaled a controversial Arctic oil rig 120km off the coast of Greenland. The boat driver evaded a Danish navy warship and delivered Kumi to the base of the rig where he climbed 30 metres up the outside of one of the platform's giant legs, braving freezing torrents from the rigs water cannons to deliver a petition signed by 50,000 poeple asking to see Cairn's secret oil spill response plan. He also delivered a personal demand that Cairn stop drilling for oil in the Arctic.

Activists Scale Oil Rigs to Halt Arctic Drilling
Jun 21, 2011 - The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is in the Arctic to protest Cairn Energy's drilling here. At dawn (August 31st) Greenpeace activists left the Esperanza aboard inflatables, succesfully evaded the Danish Navy, and scaled the Stena Don drilling rig. Four climbers are currently occupying the rig, halting the drilling operation.

activists from Greenpeace are taking direct action against oil drilling in the Arctic. Source: Greenpeace


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