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Oil Spill
Image: Peter Ma

North Sea oil spills increase

The number of oil spills from North Sea rigs has reached a 14 year high according to a report by Neil MacKay at Herald Scotland:

“The revelation comes in the wake of a major spillage last weekend from oil giant BP’s Clair rig off Shetland. It has prompted fierce criticisms from environmentalists and industry trade unions over the ‘appalling’ and ‘abysmal’ safety record.”

In part, the increase appears to be a result of tighter government reporting requirements.  However, there is more than a suspicion that some of the 601 reported spills are the consequence of cost-cutting in an industry that is expected to post annual loses of £1.2bn between 2016 and 2021.  According to the RMT trade union:

“What we are seeing across the sector is a continuing slash and burn approach of cost cutting to every aspect of operations. RMT and our trade union colleagues in the offshore coordinating group remain seriously concerned.”

The industry has shed a third of its workforce since oil prices plunged in mid-2014.  And while production has increased slightly as projects begun in 2011 when prices were high begin to come online, many more projects have been cancelled altogether.  Several companies have also decided to cut their losses and decommission oil and gas fields early.

In such conditions, an environmental disaster in the North Sea is far more likely.

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