October 13, 2011
BP Submits Worst Case Scenario Contingency Plan For New Well
BP has established contingency plans to fight a massive oil spill twice the size of last year´s Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, BBC News reports.
The oil giant submitted its "worst-case scenario" Oil Pollution Emergency Plan to the British government, from which it is seeking approval to begin drilling a new exploratory well 80 miles northwest of the Shetland islands early next year.
BP has been exploring those deep waters for some forty years, and has been producing oil from the area for more than 15 years.
The new well, known as the North Uist, will be drilled at depth of nearly 4,000 feet.
The company already has three West of Shetland wells currently producing oil, at depths from 460 to 1,640ft. But North Uist, which BP described as "stepping out, in terms of depth", will be nearly three times as deep, in conditions similar to those of the Deep Horizon well, which was located some 5,000 feet down.
The company´s contingency plan described a potential situation involving a leak of 75,000 barrels a day for 140 days - a total of 10.5 million barrels of oil. That is more than twice the amount of oil spilled during last year´s Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which had a maximum leak rate of 62,000 barrels a day in an incident lasting 88 days. BP said it had incorporated the lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon into its overall plan for the new well.
However, some officials in Britain are unconvinced.
"This is a worst case scenario, but it is a realistic scenario. So this could happen,” said Dr. Richard Dixon from WWF Scotland in an interview with BBC Scotland.
"If things went wrong in the same way they went wrong in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and the measures that BP tried to put in place didn't work very well, we could have 140 days worth of very significant oil spill.”
"This could be a 100-times worse than the Braer disaster,” he said, referring to a 1993 incident in which a tanker ran aground off the coast of Shetland, resulting in an oil spill of 85,000 tons.
Environmental groups voiced strong opposition for the new well.
"This project is so risky that even BP is quietly planning for the possibility of the world's worst ever oil spill happening off Scotland's precious coastline," said John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, in an interview with the Independent.
"It would be utterly reckless for Chris Huhne to approve this plan as if the Deepwater Horizon disaster never happened.”
"Instead of chasing the last drops of oil from one of our country's most sensitive and important natural environments, ministers should be developing a comprehensive plan to get us off the oil hook."
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