A U.S. risk mitigation specialist with decades of experience assessing offshore oil platforms and pipelines is raising serious concerns about BP’s plans, recently approved by Environment and Climate Change Canada, to drill for oil in the Scotian Basin, 230 to 370 kilometres off the Nova Scotia coast.
Dr. Robert Bea, leader of the Deepwater Horizon Study Group and co-founder of the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, figured prominently in National Observer’s recent investigation of the potential for a repeat of the deadly explosion and devastating oil spill that rocked the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
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Bea reviewed the documentation BP submitted to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA), and National Observer carried his scathing account of the experience last week.
“Contrary to the CEAA’s Environmental Impact Statement Preparation Guidelines, the ‘risks of accidents and malfunctions’ have not been properly assessed, documented, and validated by BP,” he writes. “BP’s assessment of the likelihood of an uncontrolled blowout are much too low, based on the Nova Scotia exploratory drilling conditions. BP’s assessment of the consequences of an uncontrolled blowout are based on unsubstantiated assessments of the times required for successful mobilization of a blowout preventer capping stack, and if required, drilling a relief well. Both the short- and long-term ‘consequences’ of the oil and gas released to the environment have been significantly underestimated.”
During his review, “I was overcome by feelings of déjà vu, because BP’s proposals to drill offshore Nova Scotia were eerily like those I had reviewed during 2016 at the request of the Australian Parliament,” he writes. In that case, after Bea recommended and legislators insisted on further safety measures, BP withdrew its drilling proposal.
After reviewing the Canadian documentation, Bea concludes that “given the potential severe consequences of a sustained, uncontrolled blowout during BP’s exploratory drilling operations offshore Nova Scotia and the relatively high likelihoods of such a blowout, the Canadian governments with responsibilities for offshore oil and gas developments should do all that is possible to assure that such a miserable failure will not be realized.”
Bullshit. The drilling rules in Canadian waters are much more strict and careful. I worked in the offshore off of Sable Island at a time there were 7 rigs working. I can remember 2 incidents. One on the Zapata Scotian and one on the Vinland. Neither resulted in a disaster that you describe. That was 30 years ago so practices and procedures have advanced from there. Deep Water Horizon was permited by U.S. regulators to switch from drilling mud to sea water. This is not done in Canadian waters to mu knowledge. It is a totaly different world here compared to the Gulf.
I really hope you’re right. Like so many of the risk and impact stories we cover here, I would like nothing better than to find out we’ve been over-reacting. But that’s not usually the way it goes.
Given your direct experience with drill rig safety, three questions: If there’s no parallel, why would an experienced risk evaluator like Robert Bea be putting his reputation and his life’s work on the line to go public on this? If rig operators in Canada are adopting best practices, why are they satisfied to count on a capping stack that would have to be brought in from Scandinavia in the event of a blowout? And if Canadian regulators are that committed to safety — honestly, how can they keep a straight face while claiming that Corexit is less toxic than baby shampoo??