Risky summer drilling programme canned; Government must change economic agenda

Press release - August 1, 2012
Auckland 1/8/12: Greenpeace is hailing the news of the cancellation of an exploratory deep sea drilling operation - set for this summer - as the clearest sign yet that the Government must give up its single-minded fossil fuels agenda, in favour of winning New Zealand a place in the global clean energy race.

Anadarko, which had a 25 per cent shareholding in the well beneath the Deepwater Horizon - which exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 - announced early this morning (NZ time) in an investor relations teleconference that it wouldn’t be bringing a deep sea rig to New Zealand until the end of 2013. The company was originally planning to start drilling at several sites off  the Raglan,  Canterbury and Otago coasts in the summer of 2011; that was then delayed to this October. 

Its expedition was to be the first in a wave of exploratory deep sea drilling programmes, planned by Shell, Petrobras, and others. 

“These constant delays send a clear message; that rather than sitting on its hands, waiting for the dangerous deep sea oil industry to come, the Government should be looking to secure truly sustainable prosperity, by capitalising on our world-beating clean energy know-how,” says Simon Boxer, Greenpeace NZ Senior Climate Campaigner.

The value of the global clean energy sector, last year alone, has been put at US $250 billion  (1).

“It’s a fact that the exploratory phase is the most dangerous of the entire deep sea drilling process,” Boxer says.

“For that reason, it’s great news for New Zealanders, our beaches and our economy that Anadarko isn’t coming this year. 

“Anadarko says that it hasn’t been able to find a rig. That’s rubbish. If they wanted to be here, they would be. The company has contracted numerous rigs for exploration around the world.

“What they are not saying is that while the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico is challenge enough, New Zealand’s exposed waters and limited infrastructure means that the technical challenges of drilling here - relative to what they think they will find, simply don’t add up,” Boxer says.

“This news comes a week after Greenpeace, and a host of other groups, delivered a 140,000-signature strong petition to Parliament,  that demanded a clean energy future.

After the Deepwater Horizon disaster, an area twice the size of the North Island was closed to fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.

“A similar disaster here would devastate our economy, scaring off tourists, closing fisheries, and doing permanent damage to our clean, green reputation, which sells so many New Zealand products overseas,” says Boxer.

“It took almost three months to shut down the well below the Deepwater Horizon. It would take far longer to control a blowout here, especially as it could take months for another rig - most likely from South East Asia – to arrive in order to drill a relief well,” Boxer says.

“The company has been complaining about New Zealand’s proposed regulations in the media, which is standard operating procedure for the oil industry. But the reality is that in some respects, drilling in New Zealand has been even more poorly regulated than in Nigeria. That won’t change much at all with the EEZ bill that’s going through Parliament at the moment.

“At any rate, no amount of regulations will ever stop an oil spill,” Boxer says. 

Ends

For an interview with Greenpeace New Zealand Climate Campaigner Simon Boxer, call Jay Harkness, Greenpeace NZ Media and Communications, on 021 495 216.

Footnotes: 

(1) http://www.bnef.com/PressReleases/view/208