Environmental groups say risks to marine life are “minimized”

Risks to marine life, including protected deep-sea sponges and 400-year-old clams, have been “downplayed” by the operator of the Cambo oil field, according to environmental groups.

A consortium of 16 organizations, including the RSPB, Uplift, WWF UK and Greenpeace UK, have written to environmental regulator OPRED as the government continues to consider approval of the West of Shetland field.

Concerns center on installation activities, the pipeline and the risk of Cambo’s oil spill in the Faroe and Shetland Islands Sponge Belt Marine Protected Area (NCMPA), arguing that the operator Siccar Point Energy has “failed to assess correctly”. They claim that “hundreds” of species could be affected.

The groups are also calling on OPRED to prevent sanctioning of the oilfield until a new study on fisheries by the Joint Committee for Nature Conservation (JNCC), which began in September, is completed.

Siccar Point Energy said its work on the environmental statement was supported by consultation with the regulator and the JNCC.

Calum Duncan, Scotland Conservation Officer at the Marine Conservation Society, said: “Sponge beds and associated species are incredibly sensitive deepwater habitats.

“The construction, movement and potential leaks of this pipeline could have devastating consequences for deep-sea sponges and protected features already under pressure from damaging activities such as deep-sea trawling.”

In its environmental statement, submitted to OPRED in 2019, operator Siccar Point Energy said its proposed pipeline route crosses the (NCMPA), which covers 5,278 square kilometers, roughly the same size as Sutherland. .

Siccar Point, which is in partnership with Shell on Cambo, said its pipeline covers 0.0004% of the area within 0.025 square kilometers, and that no significant impact is expected.

However, the groups pointed to a new scientific review of the assessment by the nonprofit Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW), who said this did not take into account the potential for pipeline displacement in moving currents underwater, or impacts during installation that could impact “hundreds of species over the course of its operations ”.

ELAW also took issue with Siccar Point’s arguments about the potential impacts of an oil spill on marine life and seabirds, in particular on the toxicity of the oil and the impacts on seabirds and marine life.

In the environment declaration, Siccar Point said the probability of an oil spill between 1 and 25 from the production vessel Cambo was one in 4,202 days of drilling. Over 25 tonnes was a drilling day in 40,486.

A Siccar Point spokesperson said: “We are committed to producing oil and gas responsibly to provide a local energy supply during the transition and have been subjected to all the regulatory processes, checks and balances expected of any development. offshore energy. Cambo would be built with electrification ready to go to zero where possible and represents a UK direct capital investment of £ 1bn, and an additional operating investment of £ 1.2bn over its lifespan, creating and protecting thousands of jobs in the UK and providing energy to 1.5 million homes. .

“Cambo’s export pipeline is for gas. All of our environmental work is supported by in-depth special scientific research and analysis, primarily involving outside specialists. During the Environmental Declaration (ES) process, we conducted in-depth and detailed discussions with the regulator and the Joint Committee for Nature Conservation (JNCC), who were directly involved in defining the detailed investigative work. that we have undertaken. The analysis of seabed habitats from the survey work was carried out in accordance with the current JNCC methodology.

Cambo holds around 800 million barrels of oil and Siccar Point estimates that the first phase of the project will deliver 170 million barrels over a 25-year lifespan.

The project has become a key battleground for climate protesters and industry, with the former claiming it demonstrates UK climate hypocrisy, while the latter claiming the country will simply import more oil and gas from the UK. stranger if Cambo does not get the green light.

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