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North Uist oil well given approval

Oilfield Technology,

UK Energy Minister Charles Hendry has given SuperMajor BP consent to drill the deepwater North Uist well, northwest of the Shetland Islands.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change has subjected BP’s application, including the environmental impact and emergency response plans, to detailed and extensive scrutiny, and the Health and Safety Executive has undertaken a thorough examination of the well design and drilling plan and has no objections to the proposals.

The North Uist well, in Block 213/25c, is 125 km northwest of the Shetland Isles in a water depth of approximately 1290 m.

Charles Hendry said, “This consent is very positive news for the West of Shetland following the announcement in the Budget aimed at increasing investment in this new frontier for oil and gas exploration. Oil and gas plays an important role in our economy and makes a significant contribution to our energy security but exploration should not come at a cost to the environment. That is why before giving consent, my Department has very carefully scrutinised BP’s plans and their emergency response measures to ensure their operations are conducted to the highest possible standards.”

In accordance with DECC standard guidance, as part of the assessment process BP provided detailed confirmation that they have taken into account the findings and recommendations of the various Macondo investigation reports.

This includes BP’s processes for:

  • Blow-out Preventer (BoP) management, inspection and independent verification. 
  • Auditing of well cementing procedures. Overall communications, management responsibilities and interaction with key contractors.
  • DECC has as part of the application review process inspected the drillship’s emergency response readiness to undertake BP’s proposed offshore operations.

As part of the consultation for this consent, the Department of Energy and Climate Change considered comments from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), Marine Scotland (MS), the Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB), the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Ministry of Defence (MOD), as well as representations made by non-governmental organisations.

Concerns remain

Despite complying fully with the UK’s health and safety regulations, which are viewed as some of the strictest in the world and have been further enforced since the major spill in the Gulf of Mexico, environmentalists remain highly suspicious of the move.

Senior oil campaigner for Greenpeace, Charlie Kronick, said, “This government is take a huge risk to 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.”

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