Thursday, May 17, 2012

Arctic drilling on the horizon

About this: "Ottawa to auction exploration rights in massive area in the North." Looks like it's go time in the Arctic: "...the sheer magnitude of what is on the block is a clear signal that some in the oil patch are contemplating a return north, because parcels aren’t made available unless companies request them. In that sense, the current bidding round is a remarkable turnaround for an industry whose plans were, until late last year, halted by a National Energy Board review into offshore Arctic drilling."

The Globe report is missing a major angle, however, the environmental one. In that vein, try this New York Times op-ed that argues against drilling in the north being permitted mostly due to its remoteness and the lack of resources up there to contain a spill. The resources that were on hand for the BP spill just aren't there and the weather would pose an additional hurdle.

See also this report, "Arctic oil spill cleanup would be badly hindered," where it is noted that even the consultant hired by the National Energy Board "found that an emergency response to a spill would be impossible between 15 and 78 per cent of the time, due to weather and other environmental conditions."

Finally, the National Energy Board's own report, the "Review of offshore drilling in the Canadian Arctic" from December 2011 is the key reference in relation to the subject of Arctic drilling. There are a lot of vows of disclosure of safety reports by companies, notions of ensuring a culture of safety, learning lessons from others spills, etc. There is also acknowledgment that "When open water is not present, active response would have to be deferred until the following melt season." Further, this on the current lack of infrastructure in the north: "The absence of offshore spill response infrastructure reflects the fact that there is currently no Arctic offshore drilling activity."

There seems to be a lot of wishful thinking here and no resources to deal with problems. Not good.