'Elevated spill risks' associated with ultra-deep sea drilling

New analysis revealed by the Green Party today shows that the risk of a spill from deep sea drilling increases as the depth of the water increases, and that in ultra-deep water, the risk is as high as 1 in 19 wells.

"When we look to the Gulf of Mexico, we see that for shallow water oil drilling 1 in 272 wells has a spill, while that number increases to 1 in 35 wells for deep sea drilling and to 1 in 19 wells for ultra-deep sea drilling," said Green Party energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes.

Mr Hughes was referring to information from the United States Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement about spills of 50 barrels (5962 litres) or greater from wells drilled in the Gulf of Mexico between 1964 and 2012. The industry defines deep sea drilling as drilling in waters 300m - 1499m, and ultra-deep sea drilling as drilling in waters of 1500m or deeper; Anadarko is about to drill a well off the coast of Raglan in 1520m of water.

"The well that Anadarko is about to drill off the coast of Raglan is no ordinary well, it is in the deepest waters ever drilled in New Zealand, and will be considered an ultra-deep sea well by the oil industry," said Mr Hughes.

"Ultra-deep sea drilling, which is what the National Government is allowing Anadarko to do off the coast of Raglan, is much riskier than the shallow water oil drilling we have seen in Taranaki to date.

"In the Gulf of Mexico, one out of every 19 ultra-deep sea wells has had a spill.

"John Key was wrong when he said that that of the 50,000 wells in the Gulf of Mexico there has only been one problem.

"John Key isn’t telling New Zealanders about the elevated risk of ultra-deep water drilling.

"New Zealand waters are a lot rougher than the Gulf of Mexico, and help is very far away if anything goes wrong, so the Government should not be allowing risky deep sea drilling to happen off our coast.

"Last year the National Government awarded Anadarko permits which require the drilling of two wells within 5 years in waters that are up to 2750m deep in the Pegasus Basin.

"A spill from an ultra-deep sea well in the Pegasus Basin could devastate the east coast of New Zealand, decimating the eco-tourism in Kaikoura and potentially causing oil to wash up on beaches in Wellington and Christchurch.

"New Zealanders know that deep sea drilling is not worth the risk. While there are some short-term economic benefits, they don’t justify risking a catastrophic spill that could cost us billions," said Mr Hughes.

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