Brent Spar, or Brent E, was a North Sea oil storage and tanker loading buoy in the Brent oilfield, operated by Shell UK. With the completion of a pipeline connection to the oil terminal at Sullom Voe in Shetland, the storage facility had continued in use, but by 1991, was considered to be of no further value. Brent Spar became an issue of public concern in 1995, when the British government announced its support for Shell’s application for its disposal in deep Atlantic waters at North Feni Ridge (approximately 160 mi (250 km) from the west coast of Scotland, at a depth of around 1.6 mi (2.5 km)).
Greenpeace organized a worldwide, high-profile media campaign against this plan occupying Brent Spar for more than three weeks. In the face of public and political opposition in northern Europe (including a widespread boycott of Shell service stations, some physical attacks and an arson attack on a service station in Germany), Shell abandoned its plans to dispose of Brent Spar at sea — whilst continuing to stand by its claim that this was the safest option, both from an environmental and an industrial health and safety perspective. Greenpeace’s own reputation also suffered during the campaign, when it had to acknowledge that its assessment of the oil remaining in Brent Spar’s storage tanks had been grossly overestimated. Following Shell’s decision to pursue only on-shore disposal options, as favoured by Greenpeace and its supporters, Brent Spar was given temporary moorings in a Norwegian fjord. In January 1998, Shell announced its decision to re-use much of the main structure in the construction of new harbour facilities near Stavanger, Norway.