North-east oil and gas explorer Xcite Energy has told the UK Government that it would be impossible for a surface oil spill to happen at its Bentley field.
In an environmental statement submitted to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), Xcite said because the oil in its North Sea discovery was heavy crude a surface blowout could not happen.
The document filed with the DECC and published yesterday assessed the impact the first stage of production at the field would have on the environment and set out measures Xcite would take to mitigate these effects.
Xcite said the well would not blow out to surface “under any circumstances”.
The firm said one of the reasons it was impossible was that the heavy oil would become substantially more dense as it neared the surface, creating a viscous plug and preventing flow. Xcite added that, even if a blowout was physically possible at Bentley, the flow of the leak would “rapidly decrease to zero”.
The document does not make it clear if there were other forms of blowout which could possibly happen at the field, which could hold up to 200million barrels of recoverable oil.
Environmental groups have previously targeted operators working in UK waters over fears the region could suffer a similar disaster as that seen in the Gulf of Mexico in April last year when 11 people were killed.
BP’s Deepwater Horizon exploded in April 2010, spilling millions of gallons of oil into the sea. The catastrophe was caused when a blowout preventer (BOP), designed to stop oil leaking to the surface, failed.
Last year, Greenpeace campaigners blockaded a Chevron drilling ship bound for the Lagavulin field west of Shetland and warned of the dangers of deepwater operations.
Xcite’s report said a BOP would be put in place before production began. It added: “Given the low probability of an oil spill occurring, the preventative measures in place to reduce the likelihood of a spill, and the response procedures set out in the event of a spill, the overall residual environmental risk posed by the proposed drilling and production operations are deemed to have been reduced to an acceptable level.”
Anadarko Petroleum’s top lawyer, Robert Reeves, said yesterday the oil and gas firm was open to discussing a settlement with BP over its interest in last year’s major Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Anadarko owns 25% of the well that ruptured in April last year and caused the world’s worst offshore oil spill. It has argued vehemently that the spill is BP’s fault and it has no liability.