Drilling for opportunities without hurting the planet

20 April 2011 | News story

Industries searching for offshore oil should not drill in sensitive waters before fully ensuring all safety measures are in place, says IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

According to the world’s largest environmental network, protection of the environment should be a top priority for both industry and national regulators and environmental scientists should be part of any plans for offshore oil drilling.

“We need a plan B before going into these sensitive areas,” says Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme. “What happened a year ago in the Gulf of Mexico should never happen again and it is on the industry to prove ahead of time that they could do their job, without risking the health of the planet.”

A conference on how to manage oil spill risks, co-sponsored by IUCN, was held in Sweden last month. Oil industry specialists, including the chairman of BP, government officials and researchers, all recognised the increased risk of oil spills in difficult environments. In the Arctic, for example, the remoteness, the extreme weather, the lack of infrastructure and the environmental stress due to climate change, pose serious challenges for the offshore industry.

“One year after the largest oil spill disaster in the United States, there’s still no clear indication from BP’s chairman what new technologies and improvements in procedures are needed to avoid losing more lives and destroying the environment,” adds Lundin. “Deep sea drilling should go hand-in-hand with sound scientific research, in order to make sure that economic opportunities do not impact the environment in a negative way.”

Whenever drilling is happening in sensitive areas, using two drilling platforms at the same time would greatly reduce the risk of a large oil spill, according to IUCN. If an explosion similar to the one last year happens, and two rigs are drilling the same well, it could be sealed much faster and the impacts could be greatly reduced.

The increased interest of the oil and gas industry to look for opportunities in the remote waters of the Arctic Ocean is bringing the scientific community together to protect the richest and most vulnerable places in the Arctic. According to IUCN, internationally agreed “no-go” areas should be created there to avoid the greatest risks to nature. IUCN is currently involved in mapping the Arctic and identifying the areas that should be protected. 
 

For more information and to set up interviews and please contact:
• Borjana Pervan, IUCN Media Relations Officer, t +41 22 999 0115, m +41 79 857 4072, borjana.pervan@iucn.org