Greenland to publish oil spill plan
The move could help dampen some of the controversy surrounding oil exploration in its waters.
Mon, Aug 15, 2011 at 01:43 PM
OIL SPILL: Greenpeace, which has tried to disrupt drilling in the Arctic, has been calling for the document to be made public, arguing that cleaning up a spill in the remote sea would be difficult. (Photo: ZUMA Press)
LONDON - Greenland said it was going to publish its oil spill contingency plan later on Monday, in a move which could help dampen some of the controversy surrounding oil exploration in its waters.
Environmental group Greenpeace, which has tried to disrupt drilling in the Arctic, has been calling for the document to be made public, arguing that cleaning up a spill in the remote sea would be difficult.
"The Greenland Government has now decided to publish the oil spill contingency plan in Greenland after having heard the wish of the public for such publication," the government said in a statement, confirming what a minister told Reuters earlier in the day.
Deputy Minister for Mineral Resources Jorn Skov Nielson said in a call with reporters that the spill response plan would be available on the Greenlandic Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum's website later in the day.
"We do want as much transparency as possible in whatever information and whatever terms and conditions that surrounds the oil drilling program in Greenland," he said.
Greenland is confident that the spill plan will be able to cope with very large oil spills, he said, adding that it also details what will happen if oil reaches sea ice.
"One of the simulations was 5,000 barrels per day but it has demonstrated that the plan can certainly handle much larger spills than that. I'm not setting any upper limit," Skov Nielson said.
Greenland said it decided to publish the plan as it was now more confident in its ability to protect drilling from protesters who have in the past boarded rigs.
The publication of oil spill response plans for the Gulf of Mexico at the height of the BP oil spill last summer caused embarrassment for the oil industry when these showed companies had offered overly optimistic assessments of how they would tackle spills.
BP's massive spill gushed almost 5 million barrels into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and the risk of leaks was once again in focus on Monday after oil major Royal Dutch Shell said a ruptured pipeline spilled 1,300 barrels of oil in the North Sea.
British oil explorer Cairn Energy has faced protests from Greenpeace during the past 12 months as it has drilled a number of wells off the coast of Greenland, none of which have yet found oil.
Greenpeace dismissed the publication of the spill plan as "spin."
"There's a lot of spin here, but very little to allay the concerns of experts and analysts who believe a BP-style blow-out would wreck the fragile Arctic environment and its fisheries," said Greenpeace oil campaigner Ben Ayliffe in an emailed statement.
Bigger rivals such as Exxon Mobil, the world's largest non-government-controlled oil company by market capitalization, have also acquired exploration acreage in Greenland, a semi-autonomous part of the Kingdom of Denmark, and are waiting to drill.
In both the UK and Norway, oil spill response plans are available on request, respective spokesmen for the UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Norwegian Coastal Administration said.
(Editing by David Cowell)
Copyright 2011 Reuters Environmental Online Report