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Martin Preston Honorary Research Fellow University of Liverpool T HE E NVIRONMENTAL L AW E NFORCEMENT C ONFERENCE, EDINBURGH 2013.

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Presentation on theme: "Martin Preston Honorary Research Fellow University of Liverpool T HE E NVIRONMENTAL L AW E NFORCEMENT C ONFERENCE, EDINBURGH 2013."— Presentation transcript:

1 Martin Preston Honorary Research Fellow University of Liverpool T HE E NVIRONMENTAL L AW E NFORCEMENT C ONFERENCE, EDINBURGH 2013

2 Overview History of oil and gas spills The tensions in spill management Why the Gulf of Mexico spill and Elgin gas leak were different Decommissioning in the North Sea The international future – the push to high latitudes and deep waters

3 What are oil and gas? Oil is formed by the heating of reservoirs of plant material over geological times Natural gas – chemically simpler - formation is much the same but involves heating of the material at higher temperatures Crude oil is a very complex mixture of thousands of individual chemicals ranging from gases to tars. No two are identical - fingerprints The `recipe` of crude oils depends on region, oil field specific well and time

4 History Oil seeps known for several thousand years – bitumen used to seal boats and containers, fix weapons to shafts, treat skin ailments and wounds and even in the preparation of Egyptian mummies One of the earliest shipments in 1539 when a barrel of crude was shipped from Venezuela to Spain to alleviate the gout of Emperor Charles V* Gas seeps used in Zoroastrian temples First refining by Gessner in 1846 in Nova Scotia produced kerosene. First refinery in Romania in 1856 Anibal Martinez (1969). Chronology of Venezuelan Oil. Purnell and Sons Ltd

5 History With the advent of the internal combustion engine demand soared 1 barrel = 160 litres

6 History – European oil traffic North Sea production supply>demand

7 Largest tankers 192816346 GRT and this size maintained until after WW2 1956Suez crisis meant ships needed to traverse Cape of Good Hope so much larger tankers were built 1967Torrey Canyon 120000 DWT 1979 Largest tanker >500000DWT could not transit English Channel since scrapped TodayLargest working tankers 441,500 DWT

8 Tanker size

9 World Oil Movements

10 Largest tanker spills ITOPF 2013

11 Tanker spills over time

12 All marine spills Ixtoc 1 Exxon Valdez

13 Torrey Canyon 1967

14 Ekofisk Bravo 1977 North Sea

15 Eleni V 1978 North Sea

16 Amoco Cadiz 1978 Brittany

17 Atlantic Empress 1979 Tobago

18 Ixtoc 1 1979 Gulf of Mexico Ixtoc 1 1979 480 000t

19 167 personnel killed with only 61 survivors Piper Alpha 1988 North Sea

20 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 Gas exploded Worst accident to date Memorial to Piper Alpha victims in Aberdeen

21 Exxon Valdez 1989

22 Gulf War 1991

23 Braer 1993 Shetland

24 Deepwater Horizon 2010


26 Elgin 2012 North Sea You are here ejf9rwz



29 The 4 damage factors What is it? Where is it? How much of it is there? What time of year/weather is it/

30 Recovery factors Temperature Flushing characteristics Uniqueness of damage site Reproductive strategy of endemic organisms Marginality of key species

31 Exxon Valdez Not in top 20 of big spills But probably the most damaging spill of all time Avoidable accident Pristine, high latitude environment Bad weather at key moments Badly handled response – poor planning and implementation

32 Tensions in Accident Management Industrial/corporate Social/economic – perceived risk vs actual risk Political – the need to be seen to be doing something Legal Environmental Media Scientific

33 Conflict Media desperate for new stories President Obama – a man with authority but no power in this instance faced with mid-term elections Scientists trying to get reliable field data BP trying to stop spill under oversight of official US administration and manage PR with real time video coverage Local concerns about fishing and tourism i.e. economy Lawyers keen to develop compensation claims. Local politicians having their say 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 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 problem 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 peoples attention. For an objective scientist asked to comment this can be a particular problem.

34 Elgin - minimal conflict Elgin accident was well managed – rapid evacuation of personnel effective therefore no Piper Alpha Information flow was slow and press conferences given in French Site was inaccessible and cloud covered so no pictures All appropriate actions taken with minimum fuss and maximum effectiveness Whether accident could have been completely avoided is unclear


36 OSPAR Rules Offshore Installations 1998 OSPAR Ministerial Meeting, the dumping, and leaving wholly or partly in place, of disused offshore installations is prohibited within the maritime area Some exceptions (e.g. for steel installations weighing more than ten thousand tonnes in air or gravity based concrete)

37 According to the latest update of the inventory, 145 installations have been decommissioned. Offshore structures in OSPARCOM area Pipelines?

38 Brent Spar

39 Brent Spar – Shell 1995+ 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

40 Fate of decommissioned structures

41 Benefits through presence alone 500m exclusion zone 1284 still in commission Equivalent to ~1000km 2 Area of North Sea 750000km 2 So ~.13% in exclusion zones

42 Possible benefits of non-removal Exclusion zones maintained Drill cuttings undisturbed Alternative uses Centres for offshore energy generation wind/wave? Desalination using solar power Fish farms Seal observation platform (German) See Royal Academy of Engineering Report

43 Carbon capture and storage CCS Currently most interesting option CO 2 from industrial processes/power generation captured and injected into aquifers/spent gas reservoirs This reduces CO 2 emissions to atmosphere and influences global warming Norwegians/Statoil already using Sleipner field has reduced emissions by 10 6 tonnes over 10 years Around 6 UK projects in progress. First online ~2015/16?

44 The Future Shale gas versus offshore gas? Oil/gas price versus recovery costs? CCS as a tool in managing climate change Deeper – colder – more remote International versus national waters Territorial disputes e.g. Arctic

45 High risk areas for shipping accidents

46 Major losses

47 Conclusions Accidents have become less frequent Both real and perceived damage can be minimised by proper planning, preparation and execution The future of North Sea activities will be determined by Price of hydrocarbon extration Obsolescence and decommissioning Alternative activities including energy generation and CCS The threat of accidents is moving to high latitudes, deep waters and (potentially) the far East.

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