Posts Tagged ‘deep sea drilling’

Green Party action on deep-sea drilling


Deepwater Horizon and Rena Stranding


The Green Party is considering  further action on the problematic issue of deep-sea drilling of our coasts.  Environmental spokesperson on Mining and Toxics, Gareth Hughes writes,

The Government is currently taking bids from oil companies to explore 189,000 square kilometres of our coastal waters.

The Government should know that Kiwis don’t want their beaches threatened by the risks of oil drilling, so we’ve set up a competing bid, the Kiwibid to allow Kiwis to voice their opposition to these plans.

If you’re ready to take action on deep sea oil drilling, join me for a live online Q and A session about what’s happening and how you can help. Join the Q and A session to discuss ways to encourage New Zealanders to sign up to the Kiwibid, and find out other ways we can work together to stop oil drilling.

When: Next Wednesday, 26 June at 8:00pm
Where: At your computer, live and online
Watch the livestream online:   Here

If you have questions about deep sea oil drilling and how you can help, I would love to hear them.

Email me your questions ( then tune in to see the answers.

Thanks, and I hope you can join me next Wednesday.

Gareth Hughes

Deep sea drilling is an issue – and potential crisis – that I believe has not yet filtered into the public consciousness (too much bloody X Factor, Seven Sharp, and cooking porn on TV).   Should a worst case scenario come to pass,  our coastline could end up facing a crisis surpassing that of the Gulf of Mexico disaster in 2010.

Consider for a moment  that it took the most technologically advanced nation on this planet; with almost unlimited resources and wealth; nearly three months  to cap the oil gush.

This was my suggestion to the Green Party on this problematic issue,

Like many New Zealanders, I’ve taken the stranding of the m.v. Rena on 11 October 2011, and the subsequent oil spill,  as a clear warning that New Zealand is incapable of containing such a disaster. Regardless of the mealy-mouthed reassurances by National ministers (none of whom have soiled their own hands to help clean the East Coast beaches of Rena’s oil), it’s fairly evident that if we couldn’t cope with the Rena – then a Deepwater Horizon type disaster would be utterly beyond our resources.

An oil spill of Deepwater Horizon proportions – which took the Americans EIGHTYSEVEN days to contain – would be an immense enviromental disaster of our coast.

So how to prevent National from implementing it’s policy of permitting deep sea drilling/prospecting?

1. Put all oil companies on notice that any contracts will be cancelled by an incoming Labour-Green-Mana government and that there will be no compensation.

This gives them fair warning of potential change of government policy.

After all, if National can change legislation such as labour laws, which previous governments have implemented, then a progressive government has the same sovereign right.

2. Set up a Crown-owned entity which will have all off-shore leases transferred into their ownership. This crown company should be independent; funded through the Remuneration Authority (so that political interference can’t choke of funding for company directors); and a contract made between Government and this Crown company to hold all leases in perpetuity. The Board of Directors should comprise of Iwi, environmental groups, local bodies, and representatives of other groups. If National can attempt to commit future governments to a contract with Skycity to build a new conference centre, then a center-left government should be able to do likewise.

If Option 2 is unworkable, then option 3,

3. Demand a US$1 billion bond per oil drilling facility; demand that each company commit to long-term corporate-entity representation in New Zealand (so legal papers can be served locally, if necessary); demand that all disputes be covered under NZ jurisdiction; demand that fully staffed,  state-of-the-art oil containment technology be held in each distinct area where deep sea drilling is being undertaken. And any other safety, legal, financial matters not covered here.

4. Hold accountable every Minister of the Crown who signs a deep-water oil drilling consent. Accountability to include being charged with negligence, malfeasance, and contributing to any resulting oil spill. Prison terms to be considered.

Option 4 is particularly relevant.  Considering that the Pike River Mine disaster was a direct consequence of National’s “reforms” to the Mines Inspectorate in the early 1990s; and considering that none of the Ministers responsible were ever help accountable (Kate Wilkinson’s token resignation  being only a sacrificial goat); and considering that 29 men lost their lives as a result of National’s policies, it is evident that government ministers need to be held to account for their actions .

I especially have a fondness for Option 4:  Hold accountable every Minister of the Crown who signs a deep-water oil drilling consent…  Prison terms to be considered.

It is high time that government ministers who enact legislation that eventuate in  dire consequences, should be help to account.

If government Ministers were held personally responsible it might slow down the process of so-called “reforms” and reduce Bills passed under “Urgency”.

After all, National demands the same responsibility from the rest of us.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 23 June 2013.



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The Bad Oil

25 June 2013 4 comments


Deepwater Horizon

Gulf of Mexico, Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion, 20 April 2010


The stats;

Event: Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion & oil spill

Date: 20 April 2010

Human death toll: 11

Animal death toll: unknown

Est. Oil Spilled: 4.9 million barrels of oil

Depth of water: 1,500 metres

Depth of well: 10,680 metres

Time to cap oil spill: 87 days

An international petroleum drilling expert, Stuart Boggan, has advised  an  oil and gas conference in New Plymouth  that capping an oil blow-out, similar to the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, would take two weeks;


Gear to cap oil rig has to be shipped from UK

Acknowledgment – Radio NZ –  Gear to cap oil rig has to be shipped from


Two weeks.

Assuming that a similar disaster occurs here, of the east coast of New Zealand, at the Raukumara Basin – which is deeper than the Gulf of Mexico – how much oil could be released in those two weeks?

A simple bit of math:  4.9 million barrels divided by 87 days equals: 56,322 (approx) barrels per day.

At 56,322 barrels per day, that would see 788,500 barrels over two weeks.

One  barrel of oil is equivalent to  158.9 litres (approx).

788,500 barrels equates to  125,292,650 litres. One hundred and twenty five million litres.

By comparison, the  oil spill from the grounding of the M.V. Rena on 5 October 2011 released 1,800 litres (1,700 tonnes) of heavy fuel oil and a further 213 litres (200 tonnes) of marine diesel into the sea (see:  Rena ‘worst maritime environmental disaster’);



Acknowledgment – The Guardian – New Zealand oil spill – in pictures


The oil spill affected a coastline from Mt Maunganui to Maketu – and further beyond;


nz_oil_spill_v4_464 coastmap

Acknowledgment – BBC –  Salvage crew returns to New Zealand oil spill ship


It took hundreds of volunteers several weeks and months to clean up a mess caused by “only” 2,013 litres of oil and diesel.

Now imagine the horror of  125 million litres gushing from a deep-sea well at the Raukumara Basin that could be five to six times deeper than the position of the Deepwater Horizon rig.

Remember the the depth of water at the rig was around 1,200 to 1,500 metres.

The Raukumara Basin in some areas extend to over 6,000 metres (6 kilometres) in depth;



Source: Ministry of Economic Development –  Raukumara Basin Fact File [699 kB PDF]


When, on 24 October 2012,  Prime Minister John Key was challenged in Parliament over the safety of deep sea drilling, this was the exchange,

Questions for oral answer

5. Oil and Gas Exploration—Deep-sea Oil-drilling and Environmental Risk

5. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement, “We’re not environmental bandits. If we don’t believe drilling can take place in a way that is environmentally sustainable and wouldn’t put at undue risk the environment, we wouldn’t go with it.”; if so, why?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : I stand by my full statement, which included that we want to balance our economic opportunities with our environmental responsibilities; because it is true.

Dr Russel Norman: How is deep-sea drilling not putting the environment at undue risk, when just this month Dayne Maxwell of Maritime New Zealand said about the Government’s oil response equipment: “Most of the response equipment that we have is designed for near-shore sheltered conditions, and really there isn’t available internationally any equipment specifically designed to operate in the rough kind of conditions offshore that we have in New Zealand.”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, that is one person’s view. I think it is also worth remembering that if somebody gets a permit to go and undertake these activities in the exclusive economic zone, not only would this Government be filling a gap that was previously left open but also there would no doubt be conditions on that. Finally, as I said yesterday, there have been 50,000 wells drilled in the Gulf of Mexico. Is the member arguing that all of those wells were a high risk and should have been closed up?

Dr Russel Norman: How is deep-sea drilling not putting the environment at undue risk, when the head of the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association said in April 2011: “You know, there is no absolute guarantee that disasters won’t happen, and if you had a major catastrophe, it would be just as bad as you have in North America.”—aka Deepwater Horizon?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I mean, the member asked me yesterday about the head of Anadarko. One of the things he did say to me in the meeting was that there were a lot of learnings that had come out of that situation, and that they can be applied so that those things do not happen again. Secondly, if the member is reflecting on a comment by an individual that basically says there are no guarantees in life, well, actually, that is true, but, on the same basis, the member will never get on a plane again, never get in a car again, never get on a train again, never do a lot of things he does, because the risk is that something very bad can happen.

Dr Russel Norman: How is deep-sea drilling not putting the environment at undue risk when a leak at 2.5 kilometres under water cannot be fixed by divers, and companies are forced to rely on robots and relief rigs, and this is diametrically different from operating in shallow water, like the case in Taranaki, where the deepest production well is only 125 metres deep?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: All of those issues in mitigation of any risk would have to be considered as part of an application to drill in the exclusive economic zone.

Dr Russel Norman: How is deep-sea drilling not putting the environment at undue risk, given that the Gulf of Mexico disaster was stopped only when a second rig drilled a relief well, and this Government will not require a relief rig to be on site during deep-sea drilling operations in New Zealand?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is jumping to conclusions. He does not know what conditions will be set. But, in the end, I mean, this is really the fundamental problem, is it not, with the Green Party. What Green members are arguing is that everything contains some risk, so they do not want to do anything, except that they want to give lots and lots of money away, which is why they come up with the only solution that that person could come up with—print it!

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was not a question about the Prime Minister’s former job as a currency speculator. It was about deep-sea oil production. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I think we will consider it a draw at that point.

Dr Russel Norman: Given that the Prime Minister is putting enormous weight on this new piece of flimsy legislation, the exclusive economic zone Act, how does he think that this particular piece of legislation will plug an oil leak at 2.5 kilometres under water? Does he plan to shove the legislation in the hole? Does he think that might work?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think it is unlikely a couple of bits of paper will work. But let us cut to the chase here. We are a Government that is actually filling a gap that has been missing from our environmental protection. That member has been in the House for how long? And how many members’ bills has he put in about this issue? Oh, that is right—none. What he is focused on is printing money. That is his focus of attention.

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was not about the Prime Minister’s currency speculation—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! On this occasion I invite the member to reflect on the question he asked. It kind of invited the sort of response he got.

Dr Russel Norman: Why has this Government taken a major anti-environmental turn since the 2011 election; is it because of the rising influence of Steven Joyce and others—environmental bandits within the National Party—who now dominate Cabinet and the Prime Minister?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Shock, horror! It is Steven Joyce’s fault. No. It is because this is a Government that wants, in an environmentally sensible and considered way, also to grow the economic opportunities for New Zealanders. That member wants to go down to the West Coast and say it is really bad that people are losing their jobs, potentially, at Spring Creek, while at exactly the same time he is stopping them getting a job down the road. I call that hypocrisy.

Source: Parliament – Hansards

I have re-printed nearly all the text of that exchange to show the reader that,

  • National has no answer to critical safety issues surrounding deep-sea drilling,
  • National is willing to engage in risky commercial behaviour for short term gain,
  • John Key has a cavalier, foolish attitude when it comes to serious issues like this.

In the Radio NZ article above, Stuart Boggan said that deep water drilling is not that complicated and Anadarko has been doing it successfully for 15 years in 15 countries.

Early last year, a  US Federal Judge made  a determination that flatly contradicted  Mr Boggan’s optimism;


Judge Rules BP, Anadarko Liable in Gulf Spill

Acknowledgement: Wall Street Journal – Judge Rules BP, Anadarko Liable in Gulf Spill

Which makes this comment by Energy and Resources Minister, Simon Bridges a dangerous farce,

These obligations include comprehensive environmental assessments, extensive safety case requirements and also detailed oil spill contingency planning.”

Acknowledgement – NZ unprepared for deep water oil spill – Greens

What kind of “comprehensive environmental assessments, extensive safety case requirements and also detailed oil spill contingency planning” can possibly exist  when an industry insider admits that no such safety “assessments”, “requirements”, or “contingency planning” is available should a Gulf of Mexico-style blow-out occur?

John Key, Simon Bridges, and other National ministers are either badly informed or outright lying.

This government is engaged in risky, reckless policies that – if a disaster occurs – could have repercussions that would dwarf the Rena oil spill.

In fact, Energy Minister Bridges’ only response to this potential crisis has been to criminalise any sea-going protest against deep sea drilling.


Crackdown on drilling protesters

Acknowledgement – TV3 –  Crackdown on drilling protesters


It’s like a bad, bad dream… Except it’s all real.

Truly, the lunatics are in charge of the asylum.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 June 2013.




NY Times: Gulf Spill Is the Largest of Its Kind, Scientists Say (2 Aug 2010)

Fairfax Media: Rena ‘worst maritime environmental disaster’ (11 Oct 2011)

Wall Street Journal:  Judge Rules BP, Anadarko Liable in Gulf Spill (22 Feb 2012)

Fairfax  Media: NZ unprepared for deep water oil spill – Greens  (4 March 2013)

TV3:  Crackdown on drilling protesters  (31 March 2013)

Radio NZ: Gear to cap oil rig has to be shipped from UK (6 June 2013)

Previous related blogposts

On the smell of an oily rag (11 Oct 2011)

Petrobras withdraws – sanity prevails (5 Dec 2012)

Mining, Drilling, Arresting, Imprisoning – Simon Bridges (23 May 2013)

Other blogs

The Jackal: Eyewitness account of the Gulf of Mexico disaster



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Mining, Drilling, Arresting, Imprisoning – Simon Bridges




NZ is prepared for an oil spill






On TVNZ’s Q+A last Sunday, Energy Minister and Dear Leader Mini-Me, Simon Bridges, announced a new law with heavy sanctions against protesters who “want to stop other people going about their lawful business and doing what they have a permit to do and they are legally entitled to do“,




Govt plans hefty fines for offshore mining protests


Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – Govt plans hefty fines for offshore mining protests




In plain english, Bridges was referring to  activists and local people who tried to stop Petrobras and Anadarko from deep-sea prospecting of the East Coast of New Zealand.


To refresh the reader’s memory;


Anadarko is the same company that, it was revealed in November 2011, Dear Leader  John Key was meeting in secret talks,





Acknowledgement: TV3 – Key keeps meeting with Anadarko boss quiet




(Funny how Key habitually meets corporate businessmen in secret…)


Anadarko is the same company that was involved in the Deepwater Horizon disaster on 20 April  2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 men on the platform; injuring 17 others; and released about 4.9 million barrels of oil into the ocean from a 10,680 metre deep well.









Judge Rules BP, Anadarko Liable in Gulf Spill


Acknowledgement: Wall Street Journal – Judge Rules BP, Anadarko Liable in Gulf Spill




Petrobras – the target of sea-going protesters in March and April of  2011 (see: Protest flotilla taking on oil giant ) – intercepted and protested against  Petrobras’ prospecting-drilling ships at the Raukumara Basin, off the East Cape of the North Island. The water at the Basin is deeper than those of the Gulf of Mexico, where the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig  blew apart.


During the protest, on 23 April 2011, the skipper of the ‘San Pietro‘, Elvis Teddy, was arrested (see:  Charge laid after oil protest).


With Petrobras’ track record of oil spills elswhere in the world, it was hardly surprising that people on the East Coast were angry that their coastal waters were under threat,




Brazilian oil spill draws attention to drilling in New Zealand


Acknowledgement: TV3 – Brazilian oil spill draws attention to drilling in New Zealand




Six months later, the MV Rena would run aground the Astrolabe Reef, spewing 1,700 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and 200 tonnes of marine diesel into the east coast waters, and onto beaches (see:  Rena ‘worst maritime environmental disaster’)


No wonder many New Zealanders wanted no part of deep sea drilling of our coast. Well, most New Zealanders,




John key - deep sea drilling - rena - oil spill




Meanwhile, on 11 April 2011, Dear Leader Key had a rush of blood to his head and took on quasi-fascist overtones when he threatened to unleash our own military forces on protesters. As Fairfax Media reported,


Prime Minister John Key is not ruling out using the Navy or Air Force to ensure multi million dollar oil exploration work off the East Coast continues.

Key today hit out at groups protesting against exploration by oil giant Petrobas by saying the company should be able to carry out work it was legally entitled to do.


Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – PM hits out at Petrobras exploration protesters


Not since the 1951 Waterfront Lockout has a New Zealand government used the military on it’s own people.  This is the sort of man that our Prime Minister is.


However, the Nats have become more cunning, and instead  are proposing to  amend the law, criminalising sea-going protests with heavy fines and terms of imprisonment. As Simon Bridges said on TVNZ’s Q+A (31 March 2013),


JESSICA MUTCH I want to start off by asking you your predecessor in a speech, Phil Heatley, said, ‘I’m determined to ensure the mining sector is not hampered by unsafe protest actions by a small but vocal minority.’ You’ve been working on this since taking over. What are protesters in for?

SIMON BRIDGES So, that’s right. So we are acting, and so two offences are going to be put into the Crown Minerals Bill. Look, the first of those is truly criminal offence. Effectively, what it says is that it will be stopping people out there at deep sea, in rough waters, dangerous conditions, doing dangerous acts, damaging and interfering with legitimate business interests with ships, for example, seismic ships, and what they’re doing out there.

JESSICA What fines are we talking about there?

SIMON Well, for that one, 12 months’ imprisonment, or $1000 (please note: the minister meant $100,000 not $1000) or $50,000 fine, depending on whether you’re a body corporate or an individual. Then a lesser, more infringement offence, really, strict liability offence for entering within a specified area, probably up to 500 metres within that ship, again because of the dangers associated with doing that.


Acknowledgement: TVNZ:  Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview


Jessica Mutch  challenged Bridges on this,


JESSICA Isn’t this just about putting commercial interests, though, ahead of the rights of New Zealanders? We saw this- the Government doing this with The Hobbit as well.

SIMON No, I don’t think so at all. Look, I think what you’re seeing is a desire to ensure that really reckless, dangerous acts out hundreds of miles from the shore don’t happen. I don’t think it’s on. I don’t think most New Zealanders would think it on. They’d agree with me, I think, that it should be treated as criminal behaviour.


And then a glimpse of truth came out,


JESSICA Did mining companies complain to the Government?

SIMON Oh, there have been complaints. Look, I’ve talked with a range of businesses.

JESSICA So isn’t this just basically a sot to mineral companies and mining companies?

SIMON No, I don’t think so. In fact, I think what’s also true is this is best practice. You look at Australia, you look at other countries, they already do this. We’re also, I think, here filling a gap in the sense that to the Territorial Sea – that’s 12 miles out – you already have these sorts of provisions. Even the Exclusive Economic Zone, as I say, a massive area – 4 million-odd square kilometres – there are some provisions for oil rigs and so on. But for these moving vessels, where it was very dangerous and we thought so, that’s where we’re acting.

JESSICA Was this prompted by the Elvis Teddy case?

SIMON Look, that’s certainly part of the genesis of this.

JESSICA Well, that’s interesting because Phil Heatley said, ‘Protest action played no part in the company’s decision to quit New Zealand.’ So what does it even matter?


At which point, Jessica Mutch laid it on for Bridges, who could only deny, deny, deny,


JESSICA Are you basically trying to send a message to mining companies to say, ‘Hey, look, don’t worry. The Government’s got this. We’ll take care of the protesters. Come on down and have a look around’?

SIMON No, because what’s quite clear, as I’ve already said, is that there are many ways that Kiwis can protest if that’s what they want to do – fill their boots with protest. There are many ways they can do that, but as I say, look, when you’re talking about this dangerous kind of activity where lives could be lost, and I’m not putting that too highly, I think it’s right that we make it criminal behaviour and seen as criminal.

JESSICA You’re clearly looking to help out mining companies…


For full transcript, read here: Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview


Bridges and Key can deny all they like, but the proposed law changes – like the ‘Hobbit Law’, Search and Surveillance Act, etc, are all designed to stifle dissent and increase corporate and State power.


Never mind Labour’s so-called  “Nanny State” that National complained about in 2007 and 2008 – this has the hallmarks of a nasty, petty authoritarian, government.


This is the sort of threatening behaviour we have previously seen from National Ministers. Instances such as Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce, who on 27 September 2011,  warned protesting university students to keep their “heads down”,


“My general advice to NZUSA (NZ Union of Students’ Associations) on the cost of living for students is to keep your heads down because actually most people probably think you’re doing OK.”


Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Minister to students: ‘keep your heads down


If National ministers go ahead with this draconian law, I suspect our jails may soon be filling up with protesters. The ‘martyring’ of protesters is nothing new in this country.


Bridges may find a whole bunch of New Zealanders willing to stand up to this sort of bully-boy tactics.


I suggest he read up on history. Like the 1981 Springbok Tour.


Red Squad anyone?

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 2 April 2013.








Previous related blogposts


Corporate Welfare under National


Anadarko: Key playing with fire


Petrobras withdraws – sanity prevails


On the smell of an oily rag


Additional reading


Meet Anadarko, The Oil Company Struggling To Get Off The Hook For The Gulf Spill


Judge Rules BP, Anadarko Liable in Gulf Spill


Brazilian oil explorer Petrobras faces refinery pollution charges


Nats plan greater gas and oil exploitation


TVNZ:  Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview






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