by Gareth Hughes
We can breathe a sigh of relief that Anadarko has announced it won’t start exploratory deep sea drilling this summer, but their plans remain a cause for concern.
A spokesperson from Anadarko’s New Zealand operations says they planned to start drilling in the summer of 2011/12 but had not been able to find a suitable rig for the “harsh environment” of New Zealand’s waters.
…couldn’t find a suitable rig?
This is deeply concerning. Even if they could find a suitable rig to start drilling in New Zealand waters, would they have been able find a relief rig in a hurry if needed? If they had started drilling and the well blew out it’s highly likely they would have needed a second relief rig like was needed with the exploratory Deepwater Horizon or Australia’s Montara oil spill. With such a rig shortage it could have taken months to find one, contract it, and have it travel thousands of kilometres to New Zealand.
Greenpeace researched rig availability in May 2012 and determined that there were only 3 drilling rigs in South East Asian and Australian waters that could technically drill relief wells to the depths of water within the Raukumara permit granted to Petrobras in 2010. These rigs were between 8,000 and 9,000 km sailing distance from New Zealand which means it would have taken 4 to 6 weeks for them to just arrive on site. Then it would have taken an additional month or two, at best, to drill a relief well to a depth of 3-4 km under the sea bed. This highlights that our isolation is a particular risk of operating in New Zealand.
I recently asked the Energy Minister if he would require a second relief rig to be on stand-by in case of an emergency and he said no. This is highly irresponsible and puts us at risk. I would rather be safe than sorry.