Shetland oil spill ‘could reach Greenland’

An oil spill could reach the shores of Greenland if there was a deepwater blowout near the Shetland Islands in the UK, according to a drilling firm’s disaster projections. Chevron, which began drilling in the Shetlands in October, made the “worst case scenario” forecast on the impact that 77,300 barrels of oil spilling into the sea for 14 days would have on the surrounding environment.

The “oil pollution emergency plan” was obtained by the Guardian along with confidential emails between Chevron and government officials before consent to drill was granted.

According to the predictions, a blowout could affect Scotland and east England as well as coastal areas further afield in Greenland. The impact of a more prolonged spill could apparently not be calculated by the company as the computer programme used to map potential disasters repeatedly crashed.

Chevron was the first firm to be given consent for deepwater drilling in the UK after the Gulf of Mexico disaster earlier this year saw oil gushing into the sea for almost three months. Charles Hendry, the UK environment minister, said a month ago that Chevron’s oil spill response plan had been “very carefully” considered before the decision was made.

Environmental group Greenpeace is taking the government to court for giving the go-ahead for the drilling before the causes of the Gulf of Mexico disaster were fully established.

In a statement, Greenpeace said, “The UK government remains entirely unwilling or unable to learn any lessons from Deepwater Horizon. The government has given the green light to a project that could cause oil to coat the protected salt marshes and sand dunes of the north Norfolk coast off the back of an unfinished computer model run by a company who says we shouldn’t worry about the effect of oil on whales and dolphins because they’re clever enough to swim out of the way of a spill. This bizarre state of affairs shows precisely why there needs to be a moratorium on new deep-sea drilling off our coasts.”

Chevron said in a statement: “It is important to emphasise that spill modelling is just one tool used in preparation for spill response. In the event of an actual spill the direction of oil travel would be determined much more accurately by visual observation using spotter planes and this would be used as the basis for actual deployment of personnel and equipment.”

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