The British oil industry has threatened to take legal action to defend its interests in the North Sea against offshore wind farm developers.
Dozens of giant offshore wind projects are being planned, mostly in the North Sea, and many will encroach on areas licensed for oil exploration and production. One wind farm developer told the Observer that conflict between the two industries looks likely.
The warning over legal action came from trade body Oil and Gas UK. The government is currently consulting on national policy statements, which set out how the UK’s ambitious renewable energy targets will be met, with offshore wind turbines a key factor. In its submission, Oil and Gas UK said the policy statements did not take account of the way offshore wind farms could impede mobile drilling rigs, disrupt helicopter flights and get in the way of pipelines and underwater equipment.
“It would be most unfortunate if individual licensees were forced to resort to legal processes in order to defend the rights granted under their existing petroleum licences,” Oil and Gas UK’s submission said.
Jim Footner of Greenpeace said the government should be backing wind power: “The oil lobby is threatening to scupper the UK’s chances of developing a cutting-edge offshore wind industry. There is a definite conflict between oil interests, who are going to ever greater extremes to extract their product, and offshore wind. Is the government going to kowtow to a highly polluting industry which relies on something that is running out, or will they back offshore wind, which will provide tens of thousands of jobs, cut emissions and secure our energy future?”
Mark Petterson of Warwick Energy, which developed the world’s largest offshore wind farm, off the Kent coast, said the transition did not have to be confrontational. “The experience on our three projects to date, which have all had some degree of overlap with oil and gas, has shown that this can work.”
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