- BP has been accused of dumping industrial waste at sea after starting to drop thousands of tonnes of oil pipes in a legally protected marine wildlife zone in the Atlantic.
- But after a series of delays, those plans were repeatedly changed.
- It has given itself six years to decide whether to resume drilling at Foinaven, sell it or finally decommission it.
Following the completion of drilling, a UK regulator obtained permission for an oil company to drop hundreds of tonnes of pipelines and wires as reported by The Guardian.
BP has been accused of dumping industrial waste at sea after starting to drop thousands of tonnes of oil pipes in a legally protected marine wildlife zone in the Atlantic.
Confidential documents seen by the Guardian show the oil company sought approval to dump 14 pipes and control cables 120 miles west of Shetland after finishing drilling at the site.
It started dropping four days ago onto a marine protection area (MPA) after being given clearance last week by the UK’s decommissioning regulator.
The area is designated an MPA under international law because of its rare giant deep-sea sponges, gravel ecosystem and ocean quahog, a very slow-growing mollusc.
A type of clam, ocean quahog is one of the longest-living animals on Earth and has been known to live for 400 to 500 years.
BP has been drilling there for 25 years, at depths of up to 600 metres, using a floating oil ship called the Petrojarl Foinaven, which is to be scrapped.
But after a series of delays, those plans were repeatedly changed.
The riser cables are about 820 metres long and the umbilical cables are up to 4.2km long; they weigh nearly 2,400 tonnes.
A source with direct knowledge of the plans described the web of cables as being like a pile of “cooked spaghetti”, and said it would be immensely costly and challenging to recover all 14 cables and risers, suggesting it would cost tens of millions of pounds and need special retrieval ships and underwater vessels.
BP insists that dumping the cables will have little impact on the seabed and will still allow the pipes to be recovered later.
It has given itself six years to decide whether to resume drilling at Foinaven, sell it or finally decommission it.
Dr Doug Parr, the chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, said: “The only circumstances in which any company should contemplate dumping hardware onto the seabed in an uncontrolled manner would be to save lives in an emergency.
“The fact that BP is proposing to do this simply out of expediency is hard to defend.”
It said it had sped up the process for safety reasons because the summer weather window in that exposed part of the Atlantic was narrow.
“Our plans to recover and dispose of the Foinaven risers and our commitments to minimise the impact on the environment as part of our decommissioning process remain unchanged,” BP said.
“However, it will still be done in a controlled and sequenced manner.”
Known as the Faroe-Shetland sponge belt, the MPA covers a deep-sea channel and rift basin partly gouged out by glaciers that is up to 800 metres deep and has the only population of giant sponges in UK waters.
BP’s application to the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for the Environment and Decommissioning (Opred) acknowledged the disposal would cause “localised, temporary disturbance of an area of the seabed”.
The company said only a fraction of the MPA would be affected by dropping the risers and cables, covering roughly 70sq metres.
“Decommissioning is undertaken in accordance with the UK and international obligations, in a safe and cost-effective manner while minimising risk,” they said.
“Each case is taken on its merits and, as with every proposal, this will have been assessed comprehensively on its environmental impact.”
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Source: The Guardian