Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The risks of drilling

The government is currently planning for a massive expansion in oil and gas exploration in the Exclusive Economic Zone, as part of their "find oil" plan for economic recovery (yes, that's their plan: find oil. They might as well "plan" to win the lottery). Meanwhile, from the UK, there's another warning of the dangers of this sort of activity, with a blowout at the Elgin gas platform in the North Sea. Currently the rig is spewing gas into the atmosphere, creating a risk of an explosion which has forced the evacuation of several nearby platforms. If not plugged, the leak could persist for 10-12 years, and spew half a billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming. This is by any assessment an environmental disaster demanding urgent action. So what's the company's solution? Dither, of course:

It could take another six months for oil engineers to drill a relief well to the leaking gas field beneath the offshore platform in the North Sea that was evacuated over the weekend when highly inflammable and toxic gas reached dangerous levels.


Total, the oil company that operates the platform, said it will drill the relief well to the leaking well head, which could then be blocked with a concrete plug similar to the plugging technique used to stem the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

There are other options - the article mentions plugging the well from the rig itself - but they might endanger its precious asset. And so the environment gets sacrificed instead.

Meanwhile, our government presses on with its plans. And its new EEZ bill has no requirements that drilling platforms be fitted with blowout preventers to limit the damage from this sort of accident. Its an environmental disaster waiting to happen. Sadly, like Total, our government is thinking about the money rather than the environmental risks.