Energy giant BP has launched a public consultation on the environmental impact of a deepwater well it plans to drill west of Shetland next year.
It wants to start exploration work on its North Uist prospect 77 miles north-west of Shetland and has just released its environmental-impact assessment (EIA) for the project.
BP said yesterday it wanted feedback from the public and interested groups to help address concerns over deepwater drilling, but environmental campaigners said the firm’s plan for tackling any oil spill was completely inadequate.
BP plans to start drilling the exploration well with the Stena Carron drillship in more than 4,200ft of water in January next year.
BP’s deepwater plans have come under close scrutiny since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in April last year, killing 11 workers and spilling millions of barrels of oil into the sea.
In the North Uist EIA, it says the chance of an oil spill at the prospect during drilling is extremely remote, but if an incident occurs it will have comprehensive response and mitigation measures in place.
The EIA also says there have been no significant blowouts leading to oil pollution in the UK for more than 20 years, adding: “The lessons learned since the Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico have only strengthened the preventative measures taken”.
A spokesman for BP said the company’s mitigation and response plans should reassure people with fears over deepwater drilling.
The EIA was made public to make sure BP fully understood how drilling could affect the area around the prospect, he said, adding: “Publishing the statement gives interested parties an opportunity to look at the facts and decide for themselves where the environmental risks lie.
“We welcome feedback from those with a genuine interest in the reduction of the industry’s environmental impact.”
The EIA was criticised by Greenpeace, which said that while 50,000 barrels of oil flowed from Deepwater Horizon’s Macondo well each day until it was capped, up to 75,000 barrels a day could spill from North Uist if an accident took place.
Campaigner Vicky Wyatt said: “They are copying and pasting large parts of this plan from previous assessments.
“When you are drilling at depths like this and something goes wrong is it really difficult to stop the oil flowing. The risks that it poses are unacceptable. Oil companies do not have the technical know-how to deal with it or the financial capability to clear up afterwards.”
Greenpeace said it would submit its opinion to BP before the consultation period ends on Friday, October 7.
BP is operator on North Uist with a 47.5% stake. Nexen has a 35% share, while Faroe Petroleum and Cieco have 6.25% each and 5% held by Idemitsu. For more information on the consultation visit www.bp.com/scotland