OIL giant BP has outlined its contingency plans for dealing with an environmental disaster as it prepares to start drilling off the coast of Shetland next year.
The firm has set out how it would tackle a “worst-case scenario” involving a leak of 75,000 barrels a day in a submission to the UK Government.
BP had planned to start drilling in the North Uist oil-prospecting area, about 80 miles north-west of Shetland, last year, but the launch date was postponed following the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.
The company now intends to start drilling in the spring of 2012, providing it receives Westminster approval.
Last night a BP spokesman said it had operated safely west of Shetland for more than 15 years and its aim was to “fully incorporate the lessons from the Deepwater Horizon incident”.
The blast on BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig in April 2010 killed 11 workers and left 4.9million barrels of oil pumping into the Gulf of Mexico, where it hit wildlife, coasts and fisheries.
It is understood one of the scenarios outlined in documents submitted to the government for the new well, which would start 4,265ft below the sea’s surface, involves a leak of 75,000 barrels a day.
Oil companies must submit plans to the government before they can start drilling. The spokesman for BP said: “As part of our North Sea exploration programme, BP is planning to explore the North Uist prospect in the deep water west of Shetland in the first quarter of 2012.
“BP will use the Stena Carron drillship, which has experience of deepwater drilling west of Shetland. Key lessons from the Deepwater Horizon incident have been incorporated into the planning.
“The well was originally planned for late 2010 but was delayed to fully incorporate the lessons from the Deepwater Horizon incident.”
Westminster’s energy and climate change committee has previously raised doubts about whether equipment to tackle spills could do its job in harsh Scottish conditions.
A month-long public consultation on the environmental impact of the planned deepwater well west of Shetland closed on Friday.
Environmental campaigners, including Greenpeace, said BP’s plan for tackling any oil spill was inadequate.