Accident at a BP Platform in UK Waters Would Flood the North Sea
LONDON—In response to BP’s suspect safety record in the United States, Washington, D.C.-based Food & Water Watch and its European program Food & Water Europe is calling on the Department of Energy & Climate Change and the Health and Safety Executive in the United Kingdom to immediately investigate the five deepwater platforms operated by BP in the North Sea and North Atlantic.
“BP is a rogue company that has destroyed the marine environment and communities in the Gulf of Mexico through its disregard for safety,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. “Anywhere there are BP deepwater facilities, they should be scrutinized. Due to the location of the five BP operations in UK waters and the Atlantic currents, any BP disaster here would foul the entire North Sea.”
Even before Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year, BP had a troubled safety record in the United States:
- BP’s Texas City refinery exploded in March 2005, killing 15 workers and injuring more than 170. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board attributed the explosion to BP’s failure to follow safety procedures. Texas City and other U.S.-based BP workplace fatalities accounted for more than one-fourth of U.S. refinery workplace fatalities between 1995 and 2005—10 times higher than fatalities at Exxon facilities;
- Since 2006, BP has been subject to at least $142.8 million in fines and penalties for workplace safety violations in the U.S. alone—including $87.4 million for allegedly failing to implement workplace safety improvements under a settlement after the Texas City disaster, and $50 million in criminal fines related to that disaster;
- In March 2006, 267,000 gallons of crude oil leaked from a corroded pipeline at BP’s Prudhoe Bay facility. And in July 2005, Hurricane Dennis struck BP’s Thunder Horse Deep Sea Platform in the Gulf of Mexico. Incorrectly installed ballast piping caused a 30-degree list that dipped the platform into the Gulf.
Last month, Food & Water Watch sued the U.S. Department of the Interior, seeking a temporary injunction to halt operations of BP’s massive Atlantis oil drilling facility until critical safety documents are produced.
“BP Texas City, BP Horizon, and BP Atlantis all have one thing in common: the absence of ‘as built’ drawings that correctly document the facility. This clear pattern of violations makes us question, and should raise alarms about, BP’s safety practices at all of its facilities,” said David Perry, the attorney representing Food & Water Watch in the suit. Perry also represented victims injured in the 2005 Texas City explosion and victims who intervened to oppose the U.S. government’s plea bargain with BP over Texas City as too lenient.
Food & Water Watch, along with former BP document controls contract employee Kenneth Abbott, maintains the Department of the Interior has allowed BP Atlantis to operate without documented, approved final engineering drawings considered critical to safe operation.
In August 2008, Abbott notified his superiors that Atlantis lacked proper and legally-required “as built” final engineering documents for critical subsea components. He later took his concerns to the BP Ombudsman’s office.
An internal BP email written in August 2008, characterized the situation as having the potential for “catastrophic Operator errors.” In February 2010, BP sent a letter to Congress saying that it only learned of the allegations recently and claimed they were unsubstantiated. Recently surfaced BP documents would later reveal, however, that BP had known about these problems for years.
“Are there others like Atlantis operating in the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea? We won’t know until the U.S. and UK governments take action to assure independent investigations are conducted on each BP deepwater operation within their waters,” said Hauter. “BP’s safety record itself speaks to the critical need for independent oversight.”
Contact: Eve Mitchell, +44 (0)1381 610 740, emitchell (at) fweurope.org
For more information, see our BP safety fact sheet and map of deepwater oil and gas operations in the North Sea and Atlantic Frontier and prevailing ocean currents.