North Sea Oil & Gas – A Scientific overview, the Elgin incident and the Environment. Martin Preston Honorary Research Fellow University of Liverpool. The Environmental Law Enforcement Conference, EDINBURGH 2013. Overview. History of oil and gas spills The tensions in spill management
Honorary Research Fellow
University of Liverpool
The Environmental Law Enforcement Conference, EDINBURGH 2013
Anibal Martinez (1969). Chronology of Venezuelan Oil. Purnell and Sons Ltd
1 barrel = 160 litres
North Sea production supply>demand
Ixtoc 1 1979
167 personnel killedwith only 61 survivors
A complex accident which led to a gas explosion
Oil to gas rig conversion
Pressure safety valve A removed for maintenance
Key paperwork missing
Failure in B system led to switch back to A
which was not gas-tight
Worst accident to date
Memorial to Piper Alpha victims in Aberdeen
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Obama needed to show that he was the man in charge but in reality there was nothing much he could do. In this region there is also the memory of Hurricane Katrina and the poor initial response of the Bush administration.
He was also, even at this stage, concerned about the mid-term elections.
Use of British Petroleum rather than BP stoked tensions between US and UK
The irony is that if this had happened to a US drilling company he would almost certainly needed to call BP in as consultants to fix the problemConflict
President Obama – a man with authority but no power in this instance faced with mid-term elections
The US legal system seems to encourage compensation claims so there is an incentive for lawyers need to maximise the worst case and ‘scare’ people into signing up with them.
Local politicians have to reflect the concerns of their electorates (and many of them in this area are also republicans so no inclination to support Obama)
Scientists are scampering around the edges of all this trying to get ship time and equipment but caught in the bind of not knowing whether to accept research money from BP. I did a lot of media work over this period and I was always asked whether I had taken oil company money (or belonged to an NGO) before they would go ahead.
And through it all the media are frantically trying to find a new story to keep the cameras rolling. A long incident is quite difficult for news media because they can end up running out of new things to say. The tendency can be to ramp up the hype to try and keep people’s attention. For an objective scientist asked to comment this can be a particular problem.
Local concerns about fishing and tourism i.e. economy
The fishing and tourism industries had different imperatives. Fisheries were closed so they needed compensation and had some interests in maximising the problem.
The tourist industry was desperate to minimise the problem so as to get people visiting again
BP trying to stop spill under oversight of official US administration and manage PR with real time video coverage
Scientists trying to get reliable field data
Lawyers keen to develop compensation claims. Local politicians having their say
Media desperate for new stories
According to the latest update of the inventory, 145 installations have been decommissioned.
NGO intervention led to cancellation of dumping plans and subsequent recycling in Norway
However Greenpeace did not come out unscathed when their data was faulty
See Royal Academy of Engineering Report http://www.raeng.org.uk/news/publications/list/reports/RAEng_Offshore%20_Decommissioning_Report.PDF