Near disaster in North Sea revives drilling moratorium call

By staff writers
7 Dec 2010

Crucial information from a North Sea oil blowout appears to have been mismanaged by the operators of the rig at the centre of the Gulf of Mexico spill earlier this year, say deep water drilling critics.

Reports of the incident began to appear in August 2010. The company involved is called Transocean.

In September, the Scottish Green MSP Patrick Harvie called for a moratorium, but this was firmly rejected by First Minister Alex Salmond.

The SNP leader said at the time: "I do not think that it is justifiable for the member to call for a moratorium without saying why he believes that, given all the experience that we have had in the waters around Scotland, deep water drilling is dangerous. We should learn the lessons from the Gulf of Mexico, but we should recognise the excellence of the record of drilling around the coast of Scotland, and go forward on that basis."

But campaigners say that the case for a moratorium cannot be swept aside in the light of the latest information.

Patrick Harvie MSP commented: "The evidence is clear - last year Transocean almost caused a substantial oil spill from one of their North Sea rigs in an accident almost identical to the Gulf of Mexico disaster. They then failed to act on the evidence from this accident, a catastrophic failure of internal communications and one which led directly to the spill off the Louisiana coast.

"Did UK Ministers know about this report when they approved new deepwater drilling in Scotland's waters? Did the First Minister know how close Scotland came to disaster when he [talked of] the 'excellence' of drilling operations around our coast? Does he still have complete confidence in Transocean, or indeed the other companies operating in the North Sea?"

"The time has come to look again at a moratorium on deep sea drilling and for Ministers to hold a full review of safety mechanisms, reporting arrangements, and lines of responsibility. Transocean only just got away with the current shambles of a setup last year, and if they get it wrong again it'll be Scotland's economy and environment that will pay the price, not their shareholders," said Harvie.

* The latest reports are available here: http://is.gd/ily6g

* For more information about the timelines for the two incidents, see: http://is.gd/ilx8C

* The full report Report of First Minister's Questions can be seen at: http://is.gd/ilzyO

[Ekk/3]

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