MALMOE, Sweden – Last year’s massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill sparked by an explosion on a BP-leased platform is no reason to stop deep sea drilling, the group’s chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said Monday.
“If we truly learn from this accident, I see no reason to close off the deep water as an area for future oil exploration and production,” Svanberg told a conference in the southern Swedish city of Malmoe on oil spill risk management.
“All energy extraction has its risks and it is our task and our contract with society to make sure that we can take these risks responsibly,” he said.
Svanberg, a Swede, took over as chairman of the British oil giant just a few months before the April 20 explosion on the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon platform in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11 workers and sent some 4.9 million barrels of oil gushing into the Gulf over a three-month period, wreaking havoc on the region’s environment and economy.
Following the spill, the largest ever manmade environmental disaster in the United States, Washington imposed a moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, which it lifted in October.
The same month, a bid to freeze deepwater drilling in Europe in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico disaster collapsed under pressure from the multi-billion North Sea oil industry.
Svanberg stressed Monday that the spill was “an accident that should never have happened,” but insisted that continued exploration and production in deep waters was needed.
“We are not doing this by choice, we are doing it by necessity,” he said, pointing out that BP estimates show the world by 2030 could be consuming up to 40 percent more energy than it does today.
“The world will continue to be largely dependent on fossil fuels,” Svanberg said, adding “what is not oil and gas will be coal.”
The Gulf of Mexico spill, which happened at a depth of around 1,500 metres (4,900 feet), “was the result of a complex series of inter-linked events, decisions and missed opportunities by multiple parties,” Svanberg said, adding “we fully accept our share of responsibility.
“We were certainly not perfect in our response but we have tried to do the right thing and we are making significant changes to our organisation as a result of this accident.
“We do know that we can learn from this, that we can move forward, do everything we can to prevent that it happens again,” he insisted.
Svanberg was speaking at a conference on how to manage oil spill risks organised by the International Maritime Organisation, a United Nations agency, and its World Maritime University, drawing oil industry specialists, government officials and researchers.
Six Greenpeace protestors, wearing white jumpsuits soiled with black and surrounded by a few fake oil-soaked birds stood outside the conference centre.
They held up a banner reading — “Save the Arctic, No more spills” in a bid to draw attention to the industry’s heightened interest in the largely untapped riches of a region where the ecosystem is already under stress from climate change and ocean acidification, they said.
“The world has to move beyond oil and go into renewable energy,” one of the activists, Therese Jacobson, told AFP, insisting the world should first concentrate on halting the riskiest kind of oil extraction.
“And the Arctic is definitely one of the riskiest places where oil exploration now takes place and where the oil industry is more and more interested in getting in to,” she said.