The demonstrations, during which at least 13 people were arrested, were demanding an end to new oil and gas projects in the UK with the groups claiming that their actions could have a “potential impact on fuel supply for London and the South East”.
Terminal operations shut down
Operations were temporarily suspended at some of the affected terminals with ExxonMobil UK shutting down four of its sites: “Small protests are currently underway outside our Hythe, Birmingham and West London fuel terminals.
“While we respect the right to peaceful protest, our priority is the safety of our people, our neighbours, the protesters and our operations.”
Reporting that it had temporarily suspended operations at the locations mentioned, the company confirmed that its other terminals at Purfleet and Avonmouth were not affected.
As the protests unfolded, a spokesperson for ExxonMobil commented: “We are working with the police to ensure that safety is maintained. We apologise to anyone from the local community or beyond experiencing any inconvenience form the actions today of this group.
At the height of the action, West Midlands Police advised drivers to avoid the area near the Birmingham depot with the Essex force reporting that it was present at the sites of several protests in Thurock where officers were trying to bring the protests to a “swift and safe conclusion.”
Protestors climbed on top of tankers, obstructed access roads and locked themselves to both gates and fuel tankers.
Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Nolan said: “We are working to minimise the disruption at Navigator Fuel Distribution Centre, Askew Farm Lane, and at a depot in London Road, Purfleet.”
“This is an extremely dangerous situation for the protesters to be in. We are being clear on the risks and are continuing to engage with them to try and bring this to a conclusion.”
Daily protests planned
The demonstrations come ahead of planned daily protests by Extinction Rebellion, which are due to begin on 9 April.
“We will be easy to find, we will be easy to join, we will be more disruptive than ever, and we will be impossible to ignore,” said group’s spokesman Andrew Smith adding that the plan is to “blockade” oil terminals for “as long as possible”.
At the Buncefield Oil Depot in Hemel Hempstead, campaigners blocked the entrance to the site on Green Lane and Hertfordshire Constabulary urged people to avoid the area while it dealt with the situation.
A UKPIA spokesperson commented: “Companies in the downstream sector acknowledge the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and are making changes now that can reduce our own production emissions, working with other sectors to reduce emissions in industrial clusters, and looking for ways to reduce the emissions of products too. All parts of society need to work together if we are to meet our net zero goals.
“Fuel supplies underpin the economy, and it is important that any protest does not stop fuels getting to the users who need it, especially the emergency services and other critical workers. We respect the right to protest.
“Our members are in contact with their local police services to monitor the situation and help ensure the safety of their local communities, their employees and the protestors themselves.”
Throughout the day, arrests were made as police officers dealt with the developing actions and ExxonMobile later updated: “We are grateful for the assistance of the police as we have now restored normal operations at the majority of our fuel supply terminals.
“We anticipate all terminals will be open today.”