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Greenpeace slams BP over Russia deal to explore Arctic

by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Jan 15, 2011
Environmental campaigners Greenpeace slammed BP on Saturday after the British energy firm signed a huge Arctic exploration deal with Russia, just nine months after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.

BP and Russian state-run firm Rosneft unveiled an agreement late Friday to swap shares and launch a joint venture to exploit the Arctic's vast untouched energy resources.

Under the terms of the deal, BP will take a 9.5-percent stake in Rosneft, which will gain a 5.0-percent stake in the British firm. The shares issued by BP are worth about 7.8 billion dollars, while Rosneft's will be similar.

However, Friday's news sparked outrage from the green lobby after BP's devastating oil spill last year, which unleashed millions of barrels of oil and caused massive environmental damage in the Gulf of Mexico.

"The Arctic is the most fragile environment in the world in which to drill for oil and there can be no confirmation yet that BP has learned the lessons for the Gulf of Mexico disaster," said Greenpeace spokesman Ben Stewart.

"Any company that drills for oil in the Arctic forfeits any claim to environmental responsibility.

"An oil spill in the cold waters of the Arctic would be catastrophic and extremely difficult to deal with.

"BP is the last company that should be operating there, that is why last year the government of Greenland refused to grant concessions to BP."

But BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley, speaking at a London press conference late Friday, said that the firm had "learned many lessons over the past year".

The British and Russian firms will explore and develop Rosneft's three licensed blocks on the Russian Arctic continental shelf for what are expected to be major reserves of oil and gas.

They will also set up an Arctic technology centre to focus on safety, the environment and emergency procedures.

A BP company spokesman said that the group would apply all the lessons it had learned from the Gulf of Mexico disaster.

"We repeated yesterday that we will develop this in the most environmentally secure and safe manner," company spokesman Toby Odone told AFP on Saturday.

"We have learned enormous lessons from last year's events and we will apply those to this, as we will to everything we do," he said, adding that the technology centre was part of those plans.

BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg told Bloomberg Television it was a very long-term project, and it would "take I'm sure until the 2020's before we see any oil production and until things start."

"This is a deal we've wanted to do for a long time," he added.

"We have access to blocks in the Arctic which is basically as big as the UK part of the North Sea. This is one of the unexplored reservoirs in the world of oil and it's going to be important for the world's oil production."

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