GREENPEACE activists have called on Boris Johnson to explain why drilling equipment was set to be installed at the Cambo oil field this week – despite the project not being signed off on yet.

The environmental group staged a protest at a ship they say was contracted by Petrofac Facilities Management Ltd on behalf of companies Siccar Point Energy and Shell, who co-own Cambo, at a dock near Stavenger, Norway, on Tuesday.

The group was alerted to plans to move key drilling infrastructure to the oil field, 125km north-west of Shetland, through a Notice to Mariners published on August 6.

The notice announced the intention to start installing the infrastructure, known as CAN-ductors, which can be 57ft tall and almost 20ft in diameter, at the Cambo field.

READ MORE: Cambo oil field: What does it mean for climate targets?

Siccar Point insists this is not the case and that the work has been postponed until next year.

However, it later emerged that Greenpeace had written to the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) on August 19 warning that the proposed works would be illegal without a permit.

On the same day, Petrofac Facilities Management Ltd applied to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) for a ‘Direction to undertake Drilling Operations’.

The trio of applications is publicly available on the BEIS Energy Portal, with a decision expected to be taken on August 25. 

The National:

The BEIS energy portal clearly shows the application wasn't made until August 19

The vessel was set to be in the oil field for around 10 days from Wednesday 25 August, according to marine monitoring data.

Two Greenpeace activists in kayaks paddled out to the Siem Day as it was set to depart from the dock on Tuesday in protest at the move.

Greenpeace said that if the UK Government has given consent for work to begin before making its official decision, then it is unlawful.

The National:

Greenpeace activists have called on Boris Johnson to stop the project going ahead © Espen Mills / Greenpeace

Environmental campaigners have been fiercely critical of the Cambo oil field being given the go ahead, as it is estimated to contain 800 million barrels of oil.

In the first phase developers want to extract around 170 million barrels of oil, the emissions of which are the equivalent to running 18 coal fired power stations for a year.

The field would also be drilled until 2050, when the UK Government has set its target for net zero. The Scottish Government has made the same commitment, but for 2045.

It comes after Nicola Sturgeon called on the Prime Minister to “reassess” the Cambo project amid warnings over the climate crisis.

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And now, Greenpeace have raised serious concerns over the CAN-ductors being installed in the field.

Mel Evans, head of oil and gas transition at Greenpeace UK, said: “Boris Johnson must explain why an oil company is setting up shop on this massive project before a final decision on Cambo has been announced.

“Has his government done a secretive, backdoor deal to allow work to start before an official permit has been granted?

“If so, he will be remembered as a climate failure who faltered when he should have shown courage. Johnson must stop Cambo, and he must stop it today.”

The National:

The plans to install the drilling infrastucture were revealed in a Notice to Mariners 

Eli Matvik, a volunteer for Greenpeace Norway, said: “Governments allowing new oil fields in the middle of a climate emergency is a scandal, and it’s really provocative that work is starting before the actual permission.

“If the UK Government won’t listen to the urgent warnings from the UN climate body and their own climate advisors, we need to be louder.”

The Notice to Mariners was issued by Petrofac Facilities Management Ltd, an engineering services company contracted by Siccar Point, Greenpeace said.

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The CAN-ductors are large steel cylinders that replace the need for a subsea top hole and house the well head.

They are installed by crane into the seabed, reducing the need for an oil rig to prepare the site, saving money and time for the project operator.

The Cambo CAN-ductors are understood to be approximately 17.5m long, 6m in diameter and with a surface area of 28.3sq m.

Siccar Point Chief executive Jonathan Roger said: "This work needs to be carried out before well construction and so can legally sit out with the full field development environmental consent process.

The National:

The protestors called on Boris Johnson to explain why the equipment was being installed before the project was signed off  © Espen Mills / Greenpeace

"Work would only ever begin with the appropriate regulatory approvals in place and a decision has been made to delay this until 2022 due to operational issues and given the closing weather window west of Shetland for this kind of operation."

The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) is considering whether to grant a field development licence to the project which would see a production platform being installed at the site.

A spokesperson for OGA said: "We do not comment on individual applications.

"An application to install a suction based well foundation will require the consent of the OGA and OPRED prior to installation, and any such OGA consent will normally include a condition to remove the device if the proposed well is not drilled by a specified date.

"Any such consent is not a consent to drill, nor is it a consent for the development of or production from a field; these are separate decisions."

A spokesperson for BEIS said: “Final consent for preparatory work at the Cambo field must first be granted by the Oil & Gas Authority.

"Without this consent, the work cannot commence. Ministers are not involved in this process."