Gulf Oil Spill. Could it Happen in the North Sea?
Saturday, June 12, 2010 7:34:54 AM
The answer is that I don’t know, but have my worries. The so far very low number of inspections will of course be increased, but is that enough. It is hard to get any reliable data. Here are a few I have on third or fourth hand, mainly from environmentalists, and I have no way of verifying them, so just see them as rough indicators.
In 2007 15 accidents lead to 4.55 million litres oil spill into the North Sea. Of course the sea has enormous self-cleansing potentials, but I don’t know how much it can swallow without serious negative results.
Pipes on the sea bottom leak now and then. This has been estimated at 12,000 to 19,000 barrels per day - or something like 2-3 million litres per day (Today I just read this heading: “New BP oil spill flow estimates: 20,000 to 40,000 barrels per day” - in the Mexican Gulf that is - and thus much less than the original 8 million litres per day). The daily oil production also leads to a flow of about 11 million litres per day into the North Sea, a small part of which is oil.
A terrible lot of oil is also illegally discharged by ships, probably something like 10,000 tonnes per years. Some 100,000 ships cross the region per year.
No doubt the oil industry will claim that these estimates are too high, and maybe they are, I don’t know, but I think that there is enough to worry about. And this is only the “normal” daily spill. How about a real large blow-out? Are the North Sea operators sufficiently prepared for that? (In the Mexican Gulf BP obviously wasn’t!). There is no reason to believe that the European rules are more stringent than the American. Inspection is also scarce up till now. UK has something like 3 to 5 inspectors for 200 installations, and the situation in Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands is similar.
I think that there is a lot of work to be done to improve the preparedness, and I am even more worried about the pristine environment in the Arctic, where oil production is about to take off.
Oil people: please act with prudence!