A BP-owned oil rig bound for the North Sea has been forced to make its second U-turn in 48 hours as a result of protest action by Greenpeace activists.

Greenpeace started its protest against the Paul B Loyd Jr rig on 9 June 2019, scaling the 27,000-tonne rig as it attempted to leave Cromarty Firth to reach the Vorlich oil field. The activists remained on the rig for seven days until BP took out an injunction on the group, after which they pursued the rig aboard the icebreaker ship Arctic Sunrise.

The Paul B Loyd rig turned away from the Vorlich field on 16 June, eventually attempting to return to the field on 17 June before being forced to turn back again at 10:30 am.

BP has a 66% operating interest in the Vorlich field, which holds approximately 30 million barrels of oil equivalent (MMboe) and is likely to produce 20,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day at peak production. The field is expected to start production in 2020.

Greenpeace has criticised BP’s efforts to expand its oil and gas portfolio, demanding that the oil major immediately end drilling new wells and switch to investing in renewable energy or wind down its operations entirely.

Greenpeace International activist Sarah North, currently on the Arctic Sunrise, said: “We are determined to stop BP drilling new oil wells in the North Sea. The ball is in BP’s court. Will they continue with their climate-wrecking plan or wake up to the climate emergency that we face?

“We’re calling on them to act with leadership by transitioning to 100% renewable energy in response to this escalating global crisis.”

Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: “BP’s oil rig has done a U-turn and we urge chief executive Bob Dudley to do the same. BP must stop drilling for new oil and switch to renewables.

BP told the Pope on Friday that they want to find the answer to the climate problem. Wherever that answer may lie it’s certainly not in drilling new wells to access 30MMboe at the bottom of the North Sea.

“This is why BP will face opposition wherever they plan to drill for more oil, from the North Sea to the Arctic and from the mouth of the Amazon to the Gulf of Mexico. We have tried letters, meetings, petitions – none of that worked. Now we’re going to stand in BP’s way to prevent further harm to people at the sharp end of the climate crisis.”

Eleven Greenpeace activists have been arrested so far, with five activists appearing at Tain Sheriff Court in Scotland on 17 June charged with breach of peace. Three freelance photographers were also arrested but were subsequently released.

In a statement, BP said: “In all operations safety is our top priority. While we recognise the right for peaceful protest, the actions of this group are irresponsible and may put themselves and others unnecessarily at risk.

“We share the protestors’ concerns about the climate. We support the Paris agreement. And we are working every day to advance the world’s transition to a low carbon future. We’re reducing emissions from our own operations – down 1.7 million tonnes last year – improving our products to help our customers reduce their emissions, and creating new low carbon businesses. We are committed to being part of the solution to the climate challenge facing all of us.”

Greenpeace’s efforts to disrupt the Paul B Loyd Jr rig follow a demonstration in May, which saw the group blockade BP’s London headquarters a day before the company’s Annual General Meeting. Greenpeace also criticised BP in March for lobbying against US methane regulations.