Shell

Letter to Shell: Now Stay Away From The Great South Basin

OFO ready response practice run 12 January 2014

Dear Shell NZ,
Yesterday Shell pulled out of drilling in the Arctic. This is such good news for millions of people worldwide. We have one planet and the race is on to save it. The people are winning.
We are writing to demand that you now cease any further plans to drill in the Great South Basin, off the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island.
Your industry is a rogue industry without the social licence to continue. Already discovered oil and gas must remain unburned for global warming to keep below an un-survivable tipping point. New frontier exploration must cease.
Like the Arctic, the deep ocean of the Great South Basin is frontier territory. Any hydrocarbon discoveries in this region are unburnable if we are to retain a liveable planet. You have no right to continue; your extreme destructive behaviour is putting us all at risk.
Remember the kayaktavists of Seattle? Be prepared for similar opposition in New Zealand. All further efforts to drill here will be strongly opposed.
Shell: pull out of the Great South Basin now, or expect resistance. The people are building a better, fairer world and we are winning. Get out of the way.
Yours sincerely
OIL FREE OTAGO

Guest Post: Is the “Aberdeen of the South” an idea past its time?

Is the “Aberdeen of the South” an idea past its time?

Guest post by Professor Colin Campbell-Hunt

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There are very many of us in Dunedin who will want to welcome Shell and the promise of economic activity that exploration brings. If I were to look ahead only 10 years I might be one. But I have learned a thing or two about oil and gas in the last few years that would urge caution. This is an industry that only has a decade or so of growth left, so if we want our city to invest in infrastructure for industries that will secure our prosperity for the future, oil and gas exploration should be well down the list. Here’s why.

First, even the short-term benefits may be much less than we might think. A 2012 study by the economic consultancy BERL concludes that the prime contractor for engineering and construction would be a large offshore-based multinational. Some sub-contracting work may come to local New Zealand firms, but BERL concludes that few New Zealand companies outside of Taranaki have the expertise required to win contracts for the work.

Second, the same BERL study concludes that the number of sustained jobs created for the local economy would settle at around 200 following a spurt of up to 1,000 jobs during a three-year development phase. It is unlikely that the oil or gas produced would come ashore; more likely it would be shipped directly from a sea-based platform.

So far, the project looks to make reasonable sense, both for Shell, and for Dunedin. But look out beyond 2020 and the horizon looks a lot darker for the oil industry.

The third – and far more serious concern – arises from the effect on the planet’s climate of burning fossil fuels and releasing carbon dioxide CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Climate modellers at the Potsdam Institute in Germany estimate that if we put another 500 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere beyond 2013 levels, we would face a one-in-four chance of the planet warming by more than 2C. And if we were to increase that to 1,000 billion tonnes, the chances rise to 50:50.

So how much CO2 is there for us to burn? A 2013 study by the Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics reports that the world’s current proven reserves already contain between 3 and 6 times more CO2 than we could safely throw into the skies. Corporate oil alone has more than enough reserves to blow out the 500 billion tonne budget.

Why does the 2C limit matter? Beyond 2C, science warns that we open ourselves to the possibility of runaway climate change wreaking serious havoc to the world’s population, economy, food supply and political stability. These are not the wild imaginings of prophets of doom who would urge us to climb up a hill somewhere and wait for the world to end. These are level-headed assessment of risks that the human (and non-human) populations of earth are facing right now.

So where is this going to leave the oil industry? At the present rate of emissions, we will hit the 500 billion tonne warning sign in just ten years. If we wanted to keep our chances of avoiding more radical change to just 1-in-4, that would have to be the end of CO2 emissions – not another tonne, ever. Of course that is not going to happen. We are riding on a super tanker that is going to take years to bring to a halt, and this is something that is increasingly accepted – with dismay – by the people who follow these trends. The fact that the oil industry is willing to invest in exploration for new sources of hydrocarbon when we already have far more than we should ever burn tells us that they don’t believe the political will to change our ways will stiffen up any time soon. Which in turn tells us that we, the voters, want to keep our good life for as long as we can too.

But spool forward 10 years, or twenty. The pressures of climate change are only going to get stronger; the realisation of the risks we are running can only get firmer; the prospect of controls being placed on the burning of CO2 can only get greater. A far-offshore gas field is expected to have a life of 35 years. If we are beginning to understand the dangers of climate change now in 2014, we can be very sure they will have radically changed the rules for the oil industry by 2060.

So should Dunedin hitch its economic wagon to this dying industry? Should we be building the public infrastructures to support an industry that has such a poor long-term future? Should we be anxious to attract a business that might deliver 1,000 jobs for three years, then only a quarter of that for however many years it takes before expensive deep sea gas wells get shut down – if indeed they are ever put into production?

There has to be a better way. Developing assets – both physical and human – for the city’s infrastructure to be ready for a low-carbon economy and low-carbon lifestyles will give us a far greater chance of delivering benefit over their productive life than any investments we may be tempted to devote to a dying oil industry.

Colin Campbell-Hunt is a Professor in the University of Otago Business School and has written widely on New Zealand’s competitiveness.

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

Hands Across The Sand

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On Saturday, the 18th of May communities all over the world came together to draw a line in the sand to say no to fossil fuels and yes to clean energy. At 12noon people came together to hold hands for fifteen minutes and draw this symbolic line in the sand. In New Zealand alone, nine groups around the country, comprising over one thousand people, took to the beaches to say no to deep-sea oil drilling in Aotearoa.

On this freezing cold, wet day about sixty people in Dunedin stood together at St Clair beach. These community members voiced their concerns about Anadarko Petroleum Corporation and Shell drilling in our coastal waters.

Over five hundred people lined the beach in the small community of Kaikoura. Their community has clearly united over this issue after their recent  dealings with the government and Anadarko. Oil Free Otago’s aim is to build a similar united front against drilling in Otago.

The people on our beaches on the 18th were a diverse group from all walks of life. The movement against deep-sea oil drilling in New Zealand is growing.

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http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/257700/hands-message-oil-companies

http://handsacrossthesand.org/

http://www.stuff.co.nz/marlborough-express/news/8692829/Hundreds-protest-deep-sea-drilling

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/8693861/Linking-hands-against-oil-exploration

http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/8690901/Making-a-stand-on-the-sand

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/135468/beach-protests-held-against-deep-sea-drilling

What’s in the Pipelines

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This summer Texan oil giant, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, intends to begin their test drilling program in the Canterbury Basin, NZ. The Caravel prospect is located off the coast of Moeraki, and the Carrick prospect is directly off the Otago Peninsula. The global oil giants Shell and OMV are also currently exploring the Great South Basin for new oil and gas reserves (exploration permit PEP 50119) with the intent to extract these resources in the near future, also just off the coast of Dunedin.

– Anadarko had a 25% share in the project that caused the Deepwater Horizon (BP) oil spill, Gulf of Mexico in 2010, spilling over 600,000 tonnes of oil into the sea.
– Shell spilled nearly 14,000 tonnes of crude oil into the creeks of the Niger Delta in 2011.

ImageDeep-sea oil-drilling is of major concern in the Otago region of New Zealand because of the alarming environmental and economic risks that it poses to our people, our climate, and our land and sea. There are currently no adequate protection measures in place to protect our environment from a deep sea oil disaster. Aotearoa stands to gain just 5% of the profits from the drilling, yet we will bear 100% of the risk involved. History tells us that it is only a matter of time before we pay the price. Global oil giants are not welcome to drill in our coastal waters.

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