environment & politics

Cairn Energy Have No Plan

Cairn Energy, the ‘most dangerous oil company after BP’, have no plan of how they’d cope if there was an oil spill on their Arctic drilling rig, which is situated in conditions that are riskier than for Deepwater Horizon. Thanks to a Freedom of Information request, the government now admits that a spill in the Arctic would be all but impossible to clean up.

Some people think drilling for oil in dangerous conditions, with no plans to cope with an accident, is a pretty bad idea.

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

9 replies on “Cairn Energy Have No Plan”

It may be cliche, but sometimes as we’ve discussed, cliches can shade over into truisms – but the horror of watching the Leiv Eiriksson making its way to the pole is both chilling and something straight out of SF or an apocalyptic novel.

Cairn is risking much, for short-term profits, but this is the mantra of the system they are a part of, and it is in accordance with the demand of the market they supply. No government is going to do anything to stop them, as they are not only dependent upon the same system, and oil rich spoils, but in active and pro-active collusion with the worst offenders in the industry.

It’s a dangerous and perhaps foolhardy effort underway to delay or stop them – but my hat off to the fools willing to risk the danger on behalf of us all – rather than those risking our collective survival for short-term profits.


Hi Eric – I’m actually vaguely optimistic about what Greenpeace are doing here. It’s a combination of factors – from targeting the oil rigs themselves, doing the publicity alongside, creating public pressure, and targeting MPs with regards to the Finance Bill / Energy Bill (governments offering tax breaks for dangerous oil exploration). It might not be enough to fully disincentivize the use of oil in our economy, but it’s certainly enough to ensure incentives elsewhere.

Though it’s nowhere near enough to stop climate change. On that, we’re all about to be screwed. It’s now just a matter of how thoroughly we’re to be screwed.

I agree. Well, there’s a surprise. But I’m equally pessimistic about our long term chances. That’s not a reason however, to stop trying, or to move on more immediate threats, like a catastrophic oil spill in the Arctic.

One with no contingency plan, and understandably so, considering the unknown impact a BP-style spill would have in this vital zone – and the extreme conditions.

This is just one of the reasons, I don’t read SF. I’m far from convinced we’ll have a future a hundred years from now – let alone a thousand.

It’s staggering how a firm could go out there without a plan, given what’s gone on at Deepwater Horizon, I must say. If I had the ability to climb up things like those protestors are trained to do (and the nerve) I’d like to think I’d be right up there.

And, on a lighter and more positive note, according to Greenpeace’s Twitter feed, the protestors are getting on well with the rig workers, who have made them cups of tea.

That’s good to hear – about the cups of tea. And of course, oil-rig workers are generally fine people. They’re not the ones making huge profits really, it’s the companies who employ them. They’re also the ones who risk their lives, even though they’re doing it for money. My grandfather worked in the oil business, so I know this – for Shell no less, one of the worst offenders historically speaking.

As a relatively poor Scotsman, he made a good living at it – right up until he died of lung cancer (not related as far as I know). But it was a hard and dangerous job that required him to drag his family all over the world. So, I am sympathetic to those who depend on the industry at the lower end of things – and all the more angry at the businesses and governments who have allowed this mess to go on unchecked for decades – and without viable alternatives. And they’re not viable, partly because there has been a lot effort made to ensure it stays that way, as long as massive profits can be made.

Speaking as someone who actually knows a bit about oil spill response, the problem with extreme cold weather conditions such as in the Arctic is that oil spill combating equipment such as skimmers, pumps, separators, etc… normally don’t function under these conditions. Oil tends to turn into nasty, highly viscous goop under cold weather condition which clogs pumps and skimmers. That is, if your pumps don’t freeze first.

There are ways to make oil spill combating equipment work in subzero temperatures, but these systems are designed for the sort of temperatures to be expected during a normal North or East European winter, which doesn’t necessarily mean that they will work under Arctic conditions.

Another issue is that oil response vessels will take time to reach a remote region such as the Arctic. And tank capacities are limited, even if you have a separator (which e.g. the Norwegian response vessels usually don’t have), so oil response vessels would have return to port to empty their tanks quite frequently, which would lose further time.

This of course assumes that help would be requested immediately, which it usually isn’t. And since these jokers don’t even seem to have the slightest hint of a response plan, you can bet it won’t occur for them to ask for assistance until it’s way too late.

And of course, in the case of Deepwater Horizon, BP and the US authorities were dithering for days and weeks without a proper plan or equipment and did not accept offers of assistance and equipment from other countries.

Eric – thanks for sharing that, and sorry to hear about the lung cancer (my first father died of the same when I was very young). And yes, the workers are no doubt good people just looking, like we all are, to get bread on the table.

Cora – wonderful tidbits, thanks, and all the more alarming really. The mind boggles at what industry can get away with. Do you work in the environmental industry at all?

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