Gas has been leaking into the United Kingdom’s North Sea for three days, after an attempt to close an underwater oil well caused a blowout.
Oil drilling accidents happen more often than you might think. Smaller spills and leaks don’t usually make the news, although they can still affect the local environment. And this is why offshore drilling is so dangerous—it’s even harder to contain a leak when it’s underwater.
In this case, there is not much that can be done for the time being. The actual well is plugged, but the highly-pressurized gas (a light crude oil called condensate) is coming from a reservoir close to the surface. It’s possible the leak might close itself within a few days. But if it doesn’t, the only way to resolve it will be to drill a relief well, which will take six months. If that sounds familiar, it’s because that’s how the Deepwater Horizon oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico was eventually resolved.
The comparisons don’t end there. Jake Molloy, regional organizer for RMT union, also compared the two accidents: “It’s unprecedented. High pressure gas flowing from a well with no means of preventing it. We are in the realm of the unknown, comparable to the Deepwater Horizon.”
This leak will not have the same scope of destruction as the Gulf leak, since the condensate is thin and will hopefully evaporate. But after two days, there was already a sheen of condensate two miles long in the North Sea. A vapor cloud is visible rising from the rig, and the area has been evacuated out of fear of an explosion.
Accidents occur everywhere we drill, and there is no way to safeguard the environment from the effects of oil. Shell is currently on its way to begin drilling in the Arctic, far from civilization. If a spill occurs there, the story could be even worse. Join us in calling on President Obama to protect the Arctic environment and all the animals that call it home.
Big news from across the pond: Oceana is growing.
We have just opened a new office in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark and one of Europe’s greenest cities. Copenhagen is perched between two major bodies of water: the brackish Baltic Sea to the east and the North Sea and Atlantic to the west.
While the Baltic region has provided enormous amounts of seafood historically -- most famously, cod -- today the Baltic faces pressure from industrial fishing. In addition, Copenhagen is an important city for diplomacy, and Oceana’s European offices in Madrid and Brussels will be well complemented by a team in Copenhagen.
The leader of our new Copenhagen office is a familiar face at Oceana. Anne Schroeer has worked as an economist for Oceana in Madrid for years, and she brings an intimate knowledge of fisheries and European diplomacy to the job. She will have her hands full in the coming months staffing the new office and planning her campaigns, which will include on-the-water expeditions.