Gazprom: Drilling in the Arctic

Similar to Shell, Gazprom plans oil drillings in the Arctic Sea. The use of fossil fuel energy exacerbates the melting of arctic ice, making it easier for oil and energy companies to operate and exploit the area´s resources. An estimated 90 billion barrels of oil lie below the ice´s surface.[1]

Greenpeace asserts that Gazprom endangers the region´s marine ecosystem because it is not prepared to handle a potential spill in such an extreme climate region.[2] Gazprom’s ‘summary of oil spill prevention and recovery’ for its oil platform Prirazlomnaya severely overestimates the effectiveness of oil spill mitigation techniques and fails to take into account lessons from previous oil spill disasters.[3]

Greenpeace carried out several protests hoping to raise awareness for the issue of arctic drilling and to prevent Gazprom from drilling in the area. On September 19th, 2013, the Russian Coast Guard arrested 28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists from aboard their vessel, the Artic Sunrise. Greenpeace stated the protestors were demonstrating peacefully against oil drilling in the Arctic Sea in front of Gazprom´s Prirazlomnaya oil platform.[4] The 30 protestors were held for over two months in detention centers in Murmansk and later in St. Petersburg. The activists were originally charged with piracy, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years. The Investigative Committee of Russia later downgraded the charges to hooliganism, which carries a maximum jail sentence of seven years. However, it has been reported that the Russian government has not officially withdrawn the piracy charges, but rather has added the hooliganism charges to the original charges.[5] The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg, Germany, ordered Russia to release the activists and their vessel. The Netherlands guaranteed 3.6 million Euro for their release.[6]

Finally, in December 2013 the Russian Duma voted for an amnesty ending the legal proceedings against the activists.[7]

The Greenpeace activists filed their cases in February 2014 at the European Court of Human Rights.[8]

Gazprom received the Public Eye Award in 2014 by the Declaration of Berne and Greenpeace for its controversial operations in the Arctic Sea. This included claims that it has violated federal safety and environmental standards and has been responsible for 206 oil spills across 6 of its land operations [9].


[1] Greenpeace: Save the Arctic, accessed 04.11.2013

[2] Galkina, Anna (2013): Russian Roulette. International oil companies risk in the Russian Arctic, Greenpeace, Platform, ShareAction, accessed 27.08.2013

[3] Greenpeace (2014): Gaps in the oil spill prevention and response plan for the operational area of the Prirazlomnaya offshore ice-resistant stationary platform of Gazprom Neft Shelf; 4 April; accessed 7.10.2014

[4] Greenpeace (2013): Piracy charge against Arctic activists ‘an assault on peaceful protest, 2 October, accessed 04.11.2013

[5] Greenpeace (2013): Russian Authorities fail to lift piracy charges against Arctic 30, 1 November, accessed 04.11.2013

[6] Greenpeace (2013): Latest Updates from the Arctic Sunrise Activists, 29 November, accessed 04.11.2013

[7] Greenpeace (2013): Good news on Christmas Day for Arctic 30, 25 December, accessed 04.11.2013

[8] Greenpeace (2014): Applications to the European Court of Human Rights, accessed 7.10.2014

[9] Greenpeace International (2014): Public Eye Award; accessed 15.9.2014