BP's Scottish Deepwater Foray Draws Environmental Critics

BP Gets Green Light for Deepwater Well Off Scottish Isles

LONDON - BP PLC has been given its first permit to drill a deepwater well off the northwest coast of Scotland's remote Shetland Islands since the Deepwater Horizon disaster two years ago, although the decision announced Thursday raised the heckles of environmental campaigners who claim the oil heavyweight's track record is cause for alarm.

The decision by the Department of Energy and Climate Change to grant BP permission to drill the 1,290-meter-deep North Uist well comes only a day after U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne delivered a package of incentives to spur investment in exploring the hard-to-access waters of the far western North Sea.

However, the specter of deepwater exploration in the rough seas of Scotland has provoked the ire of some groups, including Greenpeace, who say that less than two years after Gulf of Mexico oil spill serious questions remain over BP's ability to safely drill this type of well.

"This government is taking a huge risk to both Scotland's fragile natural environment, and its economy, in granting a licence to BP, one of the most accident-prone oil companies in the world, to drill in the deep waters off the Shetland coast," said Charlie Kronick, senior oil campaigner at Greenpeace.

BP earlier this month agreed to a $7.8 billion settlement with individuals and businesses harmed by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, when a BP-leased drilling rig exploded, killing 11 and setting off the worst offshore oil spill U.S. history. Meanwhile, a recent oil spill in Brazil from a Chevron-operated well has prompted a criminal investigation and reignited a debate about whether the rewards from this riskier type of exploration are worth the risk.

The government said it conducted a thorough examination of BP's drilling application, which included an environmental impact assessment and emergency response plan, and had no objections to the company's proposals. Energy Minister Charles Hendry said his department was satisfied with BP's risk planning, saying it had "carefully scrutinized" their response measures to ensure the firm's operations would be "conducted to the highest possible standards."

BP, which has overhauled many of its deepwater drilling protocols in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico spill, said safety was its "absolute priority." The company in June announced a set of enhanced deepwater drilling standards aimed at preventing another failed blowout preventer, a key safety device that was supposed to seal off the well in the 2010 incident.

"BP has applied lessons learnt from the Deepwater Horizon accident to its drilling organization and capabilities worldwide, and is applying them fully to the planning and drilling of the North Uist well," said a BP spokesman, pointing out that the Stena Carron drillship assigned to the North Uist well has been equipped with a new blowout preventer configured to meet the firm's new standards.

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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Timothy Wayne George | Mar. 23, 2012
BP is a great company, and a role model for future oil companies. By taking responsibility for the oil spill, and environmental damage this sets a standard for the oil industry for all to follow. I hope the company will be rewarded with more exploration.

john harrison | Mar. 23, 2012
Surely more drilling means more money for our struggling economy. I'm hoping this will open up more jobs for people like myself looking for a start offshore. Well done bp.

Pierre COLIN | Mar. 23, 2012
Good for BP and for the Country. It won't happen twice for this sad event happened in the US as the UK regulation are more strict in North Sea. By the way! Stay away Greeners!

alan christie | Mar. 22, 2012
good for bp if greenpiece decides to interfere with the stena carron while drilling that would seriously impact on the drill crews ability to perform their duties in a safe manner. therefore contributing to possible incidents which i think would be greenpieces fault STAY AWAY GREENPIECE

allen lee | Mar. 22, 2012
If the Greenies are so much against OIL why do they heat their Millionaire Dollar homes with Fossil Fuels?, Use Autos to get around, Fly here and there to Big Conferences on how to Shut Down Oil. How do they cook their food? By passing a Flash Light over the item. From Dimwitted to Lackwits. Thank You for a Good Article.

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