Arctic oil-spill preparedness called into doubt

June 25th, 2013

This article is more than 10 years old.

An oil spill in Greenland could be especially devastating because of the vulnerable ecosystem of the Arctic region

Experts have blasted Denmark’s ability to handle a large-scale oil spill in Greenland after a response plan for test drilling in 2014 showed environmental response efforts could clear 5,000 tonnes of raw oil a day. 

“Slips during test drilling are particularly potent and can easily spill up to 30,000 tonnes of oil per day, so should a serious slip occur up there [Greenland] all we can do is hope for the best,” Kai Sørensen, the former deputy head of the state’s geological survey, Geus, told Metroxpress newspaper. “It could develop into an overwhelming environmental disaster.”

Sørensen’s warning was seconded by Total, the world’s sixth-biggest oil company, which said test drilling in northern Greenland can be particularly risky.

“Oil companies should not be drilling in Greenland, it is simply too dangerous and an oil slip would result in a catastrophe,” Christophe de Margerie, the head of Total, told MetroXpress.

There is an estimated 600 billion kroner worth of oil in Greenlandic waters, but in a recent report, international insurance company Lloyd’s argued that companies should refrain from drilling there.

“The environmental consequences of an oil disaster in the Arctic region could potentially be even worse than in other regions because of the vulnerability of the ecosystem in the area,” Lloyd’s wrote in its report.  

The news comes in the wake of criticism about Denmark’s ability to respond to a major maritime oil or chemical spill last December. A military report concluded that the two primary clean-up ships were obsolete and could only handle non-hazardous spills.


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