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Friday, 21st January 2011

UK -- Deepwater Drilling—Implications of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

UK Deepwater Drilling—Implications of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

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The blowout in the Gulf of Mexico could have been prevented if the last-line of defence— the blind shear ram on the blowout preventer, located at the well head on the ocean floor— had activated and crushed the drill pipe. Given the importance of this equipment, and the evident dangers of relying on a single device, we urge the HSE to consider prescribing specifically that blowout preventers on the UK Continental Shelf should have two blind shear rams. The blind shear ram on the Macondo Well appears to have failed in part due to the absence of simple checks—such as whether the batteries had sufficient charge. The UK’s offshore inspection regime should never allow such simple, potential failures to go unchecked.


BP’s internal investigation into the incident in the Gulf of Mexico—the “Bly Report”— contains controversial conclusions surrounding the design of the well. We recommend the Government consider the Bly Report’s conclusions in parallel with the observations of other companies involved, and alongside recommendations of US agencies.


We believe that should an oil spill resulting from drilling activities occur in the UK, there needs to be absolute clarity as to the identity of the responsible party, and liability legislation needs to ensure that those affected are compensated as soon as possible. Given the high costs of the Gulf of Mexico incident, we believe that the Offshore Pollution Liability Association (OPOL) limit of $250 million is insufficient. We are also concerned that the voluntary requirement of OPOL membership—despite it being a pre-requisite of the licensing process—weakens any legal control over it, allowing polluters to claim thatany damages to biodiversity and ecosystems are “indirect”, and therefore do not qualify for compensation.


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Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.

A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.

Adrian can be reached at adrian.janes@freepint.com

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