BP Accused of Dumping Industrial Waste in a Marine Zone off Shetland

BP was allegedly accused of dumping industrial wastes at sea after it started dumping thousands of tons of oil pipes in a legally protected marine reserve located in the Atlantic.

Some confidential documents that the Guardian viewed reflect that after the drilling was executed at the site, the oil firm applied for permits to sink 14 pipes and control cables nearly 120 miles west of Shetland. It started to fall onto a marine protected area (MPA) about four days ago after the Decommissioning Authority approved it by the UK over the last week.

Image for representation purpose only

Foinaven location map

The area has been reportedly designated an MPA per international law for its giant and rare deep-sea sponges, ocean quahog, a slow-growing mollusk, and gravel ecosystem. A form of clam, ocean quahog is one of the longest living creatures on the planet and has been known to be alive for almost 500 years.

BP has been drilling there for about 25 years with a floating oil ship, Petrojarl Foinaven, scrapped at 600 meters. The firm also plans to sink the 4,180-tonne steel anchors and mooring lines at the site. BP, which secured £5 billion in profit in the first quarter of 2022 when there was a global surge in oil and gas prices, initially applied to the regulator for approval to lower the14 pipes and cables in a controlled way.

But after a set of delays, the plans were continuously changed. Now the pipes were permitted to be released where they meet the ship, allowing them to fall unguided to the seabed. Four have been published until now. The riser cables are approximately 820 meters long, while the umbilical cords are almost 4.2 km long; they weigh nearly 2,400 tons. A source with knowledge of the
plans mentioned that the cable network looks like “cooked spaghetti.” The same source added that it was costly and challenging to salvage 14 cables and risers, which would likely cost tens of millions of pounds and also need unique salvage vessels and submarines.

Floating Oil Ship Graphic

BP insists that sinking the cables will have little impact on the seabed and will still permit the pipes to be recovered later. It has allowed itself six years to decide whether it will resume drilling at Foinaven, close it forever, or sell it. Dr. Doug Parr, a senior scientist associated with Greenpeace UK, mentioned that the circumstances in which a company must consider dumping hardware on the seabed uncontrollably would be in an emergency and to save lives.

The company said it was required by law to salvage pipes and cables and refused that the uncontrolled release was meant to save a lot of money. It added that it rushed the procedure for safety reasons as the summer weather is narrow in the exposed part of the

BP clarified that their plans for reclamation and disposal of the Foinaven risers and commitments to lower the environmental impact of the firm’s decommissioning process would be unchanged. Famous as the Faroe-Shetland Sponge Belt, the MPA reportedly spans a deep-sea channel and a partly glacially eroded rift basin that is almost 800 meters in-depth and contains the only existing population of giant sponges in the British waters. Also known as “cheese bottoms” for their appearance among fishermen, the sponges support large schools of brittle stars and fishes.

BP’s application to the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for the Environment and Decommissioning (Opred) has confirmed that the disposal would result in local and transient disturbance of a portion of ​​the seabed. The firm said that only a fraction of the
MPA would be impacted by the laying of the cables and risers, covering about 70 sqm.

Parr, however, said it was far from assured that the cables and pipes would be recovered. A spokesman associated with the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, including Opred, reportedly confirmed that BP was expected to recover and recycle the equipment.

The decommissioning is expected to be conducted safely and cost-effectively while lowering risks, following the UK and international obligations.

References: The Guardian, The Times

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