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Many questions hanging over the oil industry

Linda Flood from Veckans Affärer [“The Week’s Business”, a Swedish newspaper] has contacted Kjell Aleklett, president of ASPO International, during the summer to discuss BP and the leak in the Gulf of Mexico. They also discussed how the oil companies handle the technology for drilling in deep water and, most importantly, if they have developed technology to cope with “blowouts”. The discussion was also about other large oil spills and Kjell Aleklett pointed out that it is time to make Shell take responsibility for the leaks in the Niger Delta of Nigeria. He personally became aware of that huge problem after meeting Hafsat Abiola-Castello from Nigeria this summer (read the blog on Aleklett’s Energy Mix).

Linda Flood had now written an article with the headline “Many questions hanging over the oil industry” [the article in Swedish]. She asserts that Shell that is not taking responsibility for its leaks is making huge profits compared with BP that is now paying a high price for our thirst for oil. As in the blog from July 28, she addresses the size of the leak in the Gulf of Mexico and then compares it with the estimated leakage in Nigeria:

“According to a report assembled by American, Brittish and Nigerian experts four years ago 40 million liters of oil were spilled annually into the delta. And this had been going on for 50 years. That means that 2 billion liters of oil have leaked into the wetlands.”

It is time to begin a global effort to get Shell to take responsibility. If 2 billion liters is the right number that is 12 times more than the leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

Part of the discussions with President of ASPO is reported at the end of the article:

“For nearly 20 years the world’s oil companies have extracted oil in deep water. Since production on land has been declining at the same times as the need for crude oil is increasing the companies have been forced to develop technology for deep water drilling. But the technology for extraction has been developed significantly faster than that for the associated safety measures”, says Kjell Aleklett, Professor of Physics at Uppsala University and president of ASPO, an organization that warns of oil shortages predicted by the theory of peak oil (the end of increasing oil production).

“The oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico showed that the technology did not exist to guarantee safety or to stop the leak. Now, however, it seems that BP has succeeded to develop the technology for stopping the leak”, says Kjell Aleklett.

“He is not worried about BP’s new test wells off the coast of Libya since the company has drilled thousands of holes earlier without any incidents. However, he wants to see a plan for if a catastrophe happens.”

The worry was just that which was discussed a little earlier in the article, namely that many nations with oil are too weak to impose conditions on the oil industry, something that others have also discussed.

BP now plans to drill in the Mediterranean and the question is how worried we should be. From the article,

“BP signed a contract with Libya in 2007 to drill five wells deeper than the one that exploded in April in the Gulf of Mexico. According to BP the company has carefully studied the risk factors before the drilling that is expected to take six months or more.

““If anything goes wrong it could be as bad in the Mediterranean as in the Gulf of Mexico”, says Jonas Fejes of the Swedish Environment Institute. However, he also says that the oil catastrophe on BP’s drilling platform Deepwater Horizon has caused the oil company to review its routines and, hopefully, this will result in better safety measures.”

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