New Zealand

Torea’s Message to Anadarko OFO Flotilla 2014-02-09

“Tōrea Scott-Fyffe, local Dunedin youth, challenges Anadarko’s Exploratory Drill Shop the Noble Bob Douglas as they arrive at the deep-sea-drilling site off the coast of Otago. Tōrea represents the next generations who demand a liveable future, which is part an clean-energy industry that provides more jobs globally and does not contribute to irreversible climate change.”

(Video 1 of 5 by Richard Simkins)

What gift horse?

Clean Green NZ?

by Rosemary Penwarden
Published in The Star

http://digital.thestar.co.nz/olive/ode/str_daily/

“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” was one of my mother’s favourite sayings, a swift reminder of our luck. My mother was our family’s undisputed gift horse. MP Michael Woodhouse thinks Anadarko and Shell are Dunedin’s gift horses. In his recent “MP’s View” he reminds us of our collective luck to have these oil giants circling Otago’s deep oceans.

Mr Woodhouse asked deep sea drilling opponents five questions, admitting that some might consider them facetious but asking them nevertheless. Such dedication to one’s constituents deserves a considered response.

Why do opponents continue to refer to “oil exploration” when they know that if viable deposits are found it will be gas not oil?

Mr Woodhouse may know more than the oil companies, who can’t yet tell what’s in the Canterbury and Great South Basins. We must accept the claim that gas is more likely than oil, but the companies don’t rule out oil, as Mr Woodhouse appears to.

In a Dunedin meeting last year Shell emphasised the benefits of gas as a “green” fossil fuel, but when asked if they would therefore leave any discovered oil in the ground, answered that since they are a profit-making corporation, of course they would be pleased to strike oil. It would, after all, provide a much easier and larger profit than gas.

As for gas being “green”, burning gas releases about 75% the greenhouse gas emissions of crude oil, doing the same damage to the climate in four years that oil does in three. Gas is like the low tar cigarette version of fossil fuels – takes a bit longer but has the same effect in the end.

Is it [Oil Free Otago] opposed to deep sea drilling, any sea drilling, or any drilling whatsoever?

Human-induced climate change is a fact, as Mr Woodhouse appreciates. Of course we can’t suddenly stop using fossil fuels tomorrow. But to delay the transition in a wilfully blind dismissal of reality is only narrowing our grandchildren’s chances of survival.

Opponents of deep sea drilling are choosing to respond to the science. We want progress, using the fossil fuels we can safely use, keeping within the two degree limit of global warming agreed to by the world’s governments, to build a low carbon future.

How does it [Oil Free Otago] reconcile its protest last weekend with the use during the protest of fossil fuel-powered vehicles, petrochemical product-produced kayaks, wetsuits, oars, life jackets and other technologies that re the product of oil and gas extraction?

The argument that it is hypocritical for deep sea drilling opponents to use fossil fuel products diverts us from useful discussion. We all live in the same world. It’s a world that has been maxing out on cheap fossil fuel energy to the point where a limit is now making its presence felt from the Australian tennis open to California’s driest year on record.

While many Oil Free Otago members choose to cycle, drive electric cars and grow our own food, Mr Woodhouse’s government’s policies make a mockery of individual attempts to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The emissions trading scheme (ETS) invites the country’s largest polluters to use the atmosphere as a free carbon sewer. Fugitive methane emissions from a newly discovered gas well in the Canterbury Basin would cancel out all the individual emissions reductions of the ‘greenest’ Dunedin residents in one foul swoop.

Oil Free Otago members are calling for change. In the meantime we will happily make use of all fossil-fuel tools and products at our disposal in our opposition deep sea drilling.

How does it [Oil Free Otago] reconcile Green MP Gareth Hughes flying around the country in fossil fuel-powered airplanes protesting against the very thing he relies on to articulate his message?

Until government and policymakers take climate change seriously, beginning with transferring the $46 million subsidy from the fossil fuel industry into clean tech industries, put a realistic price on carbon and begin the other changes needed for a low carbon future, there can be no better use of fossil fuels than to fly Gareth Hughes around the country building the movement against deep sea drilling. Far better that Gareth takes the seat than an oil executive.

What is unethical about a product that the whole world relies on for its social and economic prosperity and is vital for developing countries to grow?

My first suggestion is for church-goers to attend an Anglican service, and discuss with their Anglican colleagues the reason for their decision to divest from fossil fuels. Learn why we have a moral duty to preserve the planet, not only for future generations but for all of creation. If that’s not your thing, try looking at the hard economic facts surrounding the “carbon bubble” and why it is economically irresponsible to invest in fossil fuels long term.

To continue digging up and burning oil, gas and coal in the way Mr Woodhouse’s government intends is to condemn the next generations to an unsurvivable future. Those in developing countries stand to suffer more than us. Unfair but true.

Some of us want to make damn sure our back yard is not contributing to that unsurvivable future. There’s a hell of a lot of work to be done, jobs to be had and money to be made building solutions instead of adding to the problem. Oil Free Otago want to be part of that solution.

The future is in renewable energy jobs and industries, Mr Woodhouse. I can hear my mother now: don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

Deep Sea Drilling – A Local Perspective

This summer Anadarko Petroleum Corporation intends to begin exploratory deep-sea oil drilling in the Canterbury Basin, off the coast of Otago. Shell are also currently considering deep-sea drilling in the Great South Basin, and using Dunedin as a base. This film gives the perspective of several local academics and prominent members of the community. It addresses the economic, environmental and social issues involved with deep sea drilling off the coast of Otago.

Deep Sea Drilling off Otago – Worth the risk?

We say – oil or gas – the risk is not worth it. Why?

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White-capped albatross after Rena oil spill, Tauranga Photo from http://www.birdlife.org

The risk is ours

  • The oil companies cannot eliminate the risk of a disaster. A disaster like the Gulf of Mexico Deep Water Horizon catastrophe would ruin New Zealand’s south eastern coastline.
  • The cost falls to us – the industry does not have to pay any bond to cover liability.
  • The Rena cost New Zealand taxpayers $36.8 million, and that was tiny compared to a major oil rig blowout. The Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has cost Americans $80 billion so far.

Jobs and prosperity do not stack up

  • Per dollar earned, the oil industry creates fewer jobs than most other industries, and most of those jobs will come from outside the region.
  • Floating Production, storage and offloading vessels (FPSOs) and Floating Liquid Natural Gas vessels (FLNGs) would take the fuels directly to export. No onshore facilities would be built – so no cheap oil or gas for us. Onshore facilities would be limited to some maintenance and repair work and some support services like hotels, casinos and a helicopter (although we have already heard they would use Nelson for a helicopter service).

We have too much to lose

  • Our ocean is unspoilt and unique. More albatross species breed in our exclusive economic zone than anywhere else in the world.  38 of the world’s 80 whale and dolphin species live in our southern ocean.
  • Whales are returning to our coast after many years’ absence. Planned offshore drilling sites coincide with their migration routes.
  • Tourists, including cruise ship passengers, come to Dunedin for the wildlife harbour cruises, the albatross and yellow-eyed penguin tours.  These businesses have everything to lose if there is an oil or gas spill.
  • Fishing is New Zealand’s fifth largest export earner. An oil spill or gas blowout in our ocean could destroy our commercial, recreational and customary fishing. The Gulf of Mexico’s fishing industry could take 50 years to recover from the Horizon disaster – if it ever recovers.

We have no say

  • We have had no say in whether or not Anadarko and Shell drill in our oceans. Beyond 12 km these companies don’t have to produce ESHIAs (environmental, social and health impact assessments).
  • Neither local tourism operators, fisheries and wildlife experts, nor businesses – whose livelihoods depend on our ocean, our clean green image and our abundant natural fauna – have had input into the decision to drill.

Burning oil & gas releases CO2, causing climate change

  • Two degrees of global warming is now inevitable – the so-called ‘safe’ limit that world governments have agreed to. Beyond two degrees the climate will become increasingly unstable.
  • Shell, Anadarko and the other fossil fuel companies already have enough discovered reserves on their books to push global warming to five times beyond two degrees.
  • 80% of those reserves have to stay unburned for global warming to keep to two degrees. Anyone can see that exploration for more oil and gas in such a risky environment is – at the very least – a poor  investment choice.

We do not need to take that risk. We have what it takes right here to develop a low carbon economy

  • With over 70% electricity generated from renewable sources New Zealand is in an enviable position. We can thrive on clean energy and remain true to the values of being an unspoilt place.
  • Dunedin has the expertise to build a low carbon economy that we can bequeath to the next generations. With foresight and leadership from the business community and elected representatives, we can show the way.
  • We are already locked in to a future of rising seas, increased storm surges and changing weather patterns. We can avoid making the future harder by beginning now to improve public transport, electrify our transport fleets, protect low lying areas, consolidate and encourage local food producers, and develop new renewable industries. There are opportunities for everyone.

oil versus gas

  • Anadarko and Shell say they are more likely to find gas than oil off our shores. They are trying to brand gas as the “clean” fossil fuel.
  • Gas still causes global warming. Burning gas releases about 75% the greenhouse gas emissions of crude oil, causing the same damage to the climate in 4 years that oil does in 3.
  • A gas blowout can be a major disaster. In 2012 in the North Sea, an Elgin platform gas leak spewed 200,000 cubic meters of gas per day. It cost $3 billion and took six months to drill relief wells to stop the leak. If this happened here, the oil companies admit it would take months for a relief well to reach NZ.
  • Gas condensate can still wash up on beaches and is toxic to wildlife and humans.
  • Accidental methane emissions from gas wells can be huge and are not factored in to Anadarko and Shell’s definition of a “clean” fossil fuel. Unburned gas from these emissions is mostly methane, which is 21 times more potent at warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide – nothing “clean” about that.

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White capped albatross off Taiaroa Head, near Anadarko’s planned drill site. Photo by Derek Onley

Eye-Witness Account of The Gulf Of Mexico Oil Disaster

John Wathen is an award winning photo journalist who recently toured Aotearoa recounting his experience both on the ground and in the air documenting the catastrophic 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

John flew out over the gulf in a light plane and captured the event as it was unfolding resulting in some amazing footage and images of the worst environmental disaster in America’s history.

His presentation contains some blunt warnings and important lessons for New Zealand as we consider the threat of deep sea oil drilling in our waters in the near future.

Untabled facts tell a different story, of danger and disaster

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Untabled facts tell a different story, of danger and disaster

Shell’s exploration manager Roland Spuij was “simply trying to lay the facts on the table” before protesters closed down their community engagement workshop in Dunedin on 8 April. By then the presentation was almost finished – so what facts did Shell lay on the table?

The decision to drill down to 4km in 1.5km deep water in the Great South Basin (GSB), about 150km off Dunedin, will be made later this year. Seismic surveys suggest a 70% chance of finding nothing, a 30% chance of gas and a 1% chance of oil.

It’s gas they’re after, said Shell, not oil.

How credible is this claim? The technology to liquefy gas at sea is still unproven. Our back yard would be Shell’s testing ground for their not yet built FLNG (floating liquefied natural gas vessel); four soccer fields long, six times heavier than the biggest aircraft carrier, and holding 174 olympic swimming pools worth of liquefied gas chilled to -162 degrees C. A gas find would have to be massive to be economically viable. 

Are Shell playing down their expectation of oil to allay fears of the oil-on-beaches image, so real since Rena?

That’s not to say a gas blowout wouldn’t be destructive. Gas could boil to the surface and kill rafting birds such as albatrosses – in Shell’s words, a “moderate” impact.

Such accidents happen even where help is at hand, let alone in a region as remote as the GSB. In the North Sea, a leak at the Elgin platform spewed 200,000 cubic meters of gas per day. It cost $3 billion and took six months to drill relief wells to stop the leak.

But Shell assured the meeting that they “will design the well to the highest industry safety standards”.

How high are these safety standards? They emphasised their injury record in a graph whose unexplained y-axis, ranging from zero to five, hinted at low numbers but turned out to be “number of injuries per million working hours”. To give some meaning to this scale the UK, whose injury record is four times better than ours, had about 130 major or fatal injuries per 100,000 workers last year.

Until 2011 there was only one inspector to oversee our entire oil and gas industry. Now there are three; still poor compared to other countries.

What of Shell’s environmental safety standards?

“Environmental concerns are very close to our heart” Shell repeated (no less than five times) while showing photographs of whale, albatross and shearwater, and the entrance to a local marae.

However, Shell’s ESHIA (Environmental, Social and Health Impact Assessment) had not been completed, so there was little of substance to present. NIWA’s Tangaroa had just returned from another seabed survey, and although the data hadn’t yet been analysed, it did not stop Shell’s environmental officer from pre-empting the findings; “As you can see, not much there”, he repeated as Tangaroa’s cameras cruised the seabed. A diagram showing marine migration routes passing either side of the proposed drill site backed up the story of an empty ocean. – “No fishing, no tourism, no infrastructure.”

But details of migration, breeding and feeding patterns are virtually unknown for most of our southern ocean creatures. We know little about what our Tairoa Head albatrosses get up to when away from home. We do know that the southern ocean is home to the greatest number and variety of albatrosses and other seabirds in the world.

Close to the heart, or close to the chest? What other facts did Shell leave off the table?

Oil and gas spills happen all the time. The 2010 Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is only extraordinary in terms of scale. Between 2001 and 2010 in the Gulf alone, there were 855 fires or explosions, 1,349 injuries and 69 deaths.

The Montara blowout of 2009 off the coast of Perth, at a depth of 80 meters, took two and a half months to plug and destroyed around 64,000 hectares of coral reefs off Timor. This equates to one Rena disaster every day for 74 days.

Back to Shell. Let’s lay some more facts on the table.

Twenty million people have been displaced following 60 years of environmental damage by Shell’s drilling in the Niger Delta. Following the hanging of nine Nigerian peaceful protestors Shell were sued in 2009 for human rights abuses including summary execution, crimes against humanity, torture, inhumane treatment, arbitrary arrest, wrongful death, and assault and battery.

In February this year Shell pulled out of the Arctic after a drillship grounding, engine failures, a fire on one of its rigs and other technical difficulties.

Shell have been censured 25 times in the past six years for breaking safety rules, but have a history of under-reporting such incidents, let alone laying them on the table in community engagement workshops.

But actually, I agree with Shell; why bother to mention such things?

Companies like Shell already have enough proven oil, gas and coal reserves on their books to raise the atmospheric temperature to five times beyond the so-called “safe” two degree limit. Once burned, it’s goodbye future for our grandchildren.

Oil spills, dubious safety records, crimes against humanity, pale in comparison to the future impacts of Climate Change, the elephant in the room, so studiously omitted from the table at Shell’s community engagement workshop.

By Rosemary Penwarden