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Posts Tagged ‘Liberian registered’

On the smell of an oily rag…

11 October 2011 7 comments

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Once upon a time – well, in June last year – our government announced the following,

New Zealand: Petrobras awarded exploration permit in Raukumara Basin

1 June 2010

Petrobras has been awarded a permit to drill for oil and gas off the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee said Tuesday. He said Petrobras had successfully bid for a 5-year exploration permit, covering 12,333 sq kms of the Raukumara Basin. In December 2008, the government released a blocks offer covering two permit areas over the basin. The offer closed in January 2010. Petrobras has committed to acquire seismic and drill one well within five years unless it chooses to surrender the permit earlier.

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Minister of Energy and Resources Gerry Brownlee, right signs an agreement with Marcelo Carlos Lins Vertis, International Upstream New Ventures Manager of Petrobras International for an exploration permit of the Raukumara Basin

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Brownlee says the government is committed to unlocking the potential of the country’s frontier basins. ‘Doing so will be an important part of a better future for all New Zealanders – bringing more jobs, more tax and royalty income, and most importantly, creating opportunities for long term regional development. To do this we need to attract investment from petroleum companies that have the capacity and capability to explore and build knowledge of our offshore basins.’

Brownlee says the announcement represents a major step forward in the relationship between New Zealand and Brazil. New Zealand is keen to deepen its economic relationship with Brazil, which is the world’s eighth largest economy, with GDP of $US1.7 trillion.

The area, from 4 to 110 kms off the coast, has never been explored for oil or gas, but Brownlee said seismic studies indicated ‘positive expectations for this basin as do the many oil and gas seeps over the adjacent onshore region.’  ” Source

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However, this decision was not greeted with unbridled glee and joy by all. In fact, the good folk of the East Coast were more than a tad unhappy at what was being proposed,

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Te Whanau a Apanui: Rally in Tauranga on Friday, 29 April 2011

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As is usually the style of right-wing governments, they generally ignore the will of the people. Especially where money is to be made.

This, despite opponents warning that  an oil spill from a deep-water drilling-rig in deep,  remote, waters off New Zealand’s coast  would be difficult to plug, and expressed considerable worry  about earthquake risks. Earthquakes – like the ones that have almost flattened Christchurch.

Raukumara Basin sits between Kermadec Trench and Kermadec Ridge, and has an inherently unstable geology… Any oil-drilling in the exceptionally seismic area would most certainly prove disastrous for the entire region.Source

It is also cause for serious concern that Petrobras was planning to drill in waters off the East Coast, with “water depths ranging from shallow coastal to about 3000m at the outer-most point of the basin” . Source.

By comparison the depth of the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was 1500m deep when the ‘ Deepwater Horizon’ exploded on 20 April last year, killing eleven workers, and spewing an estimated 4.9 million barrels (780,000 m3) of crude oil into the sea.

In an article dated 13 April of this year, Gary Taylor from the Environmental Defence Society wrote,

An oil spill in these waters could have catastrophic economic and environmental consequences far bigger than cosmetic despoiling of some beaches…

… But the problem with our oceans is much bigger than lack of regulation in the economic zone. The broad suite of laws covering our oceans is outdated, ineffective and well behind international best practice. New Zealand, which used to be leader in oceans governance, is now behind the times. We do not have the tools to protect our oceans. Other countries have developed marine spatial planning as a key tool to manage conflicting uses in their oceans; we need to go there, too.Source

When protesters tried to be heard, the government’s ‘civilised’ response was… send in the police and navy,

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The united front of te Whānau ā Apanui, Greenpeace and the flotilla opposing deep sea oil drilling is holding its position in the Raukūmara Basin as the HMNZS Pūkakī arrived after eight days of surveillance by an Air force Orion. Source: Greenpeace

Source: Fire Earth blog

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High Noon in the Raukumara Basin as the naval inshore patrol vessel HMNZS Pukaki is sent to prevent environmentalists having their say.

Source: Fire Earth blog

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“Tuesday 12th April, 2011. We picked up an unexpected visitor steaming directly towards us at 20 knots – it was the Navy, with their 55m coastal patrol vessel HMNZS Pukaki.” Source: Vanessa Atkinson

Source: Greenpeace

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The government basically told people; “don’t worry – trust us – we know what we’re doing“,

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In the early hours of Wednesday 5 October, the Liberian registered cargo ship, ‘M.V. Rena‘ struck the Astrolabe Reef, 7km north of Motiti Island.

Official estimates state that up to 20 tonnes of oil may have leaed from the stricken ship, and have already been washed up on the shores of the Bay of Plenty. More may follow. Some estimates suggest 50 tonnes may have leaked into the sea.

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An oil slick streams from the Rena, a 47,000 tonne container ship grounded on a reef in New Zealand's Bay of Plenty. Photograph: Getty

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Six days later and few personnel have been despatched to clean up the clumps of oil that now litter beaches in the area. It is mostly being done by locals with buckets and spades. So much for central government’s assertions that they are “on top of it”.

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ARATAKI BEACH: Reader Brooke Money says: 'This is all that can be seen all the way down the beach - blotches of black, thick oil.' Picture taken Tuesday.

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As usual, matters are left up to “people power” to get things done,

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MUCKING IN: Michelle Forsyth cleans up oil on Mt Maunganui Beach.

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Animals have already been affected – some rescued but others have perished. As the pollution spreads, so will the “kill zone” in which fish, birds, and mammals cannot survive.

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SPILL: One of the blue penguins covered with oil from the shipwreck of the Rena at the New Zealand Wildlife Health Centre in Mount Maunganui.

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Gareth Hughes, the Green Party’s marine issues spokesman, stated,

“”We’ve had to wait days for international experts to arrive in New Zealand, we’ve had to wait days for equipment to come from Australia.” Source

Even the Prime Minister was peeved as he was  due to fly to Christchurch this afternoon to watch the All Blacks quarter-final with crowds in Hagley Park. Very inconvenient.

Recall what Gary Taylor from the Environmental Defence Society wrote,

An oil spill in these waters could have catastrophic economic and environmental consequences far bigger than cosmetic despoiling of some beaches…

This is not even a major spill from an oil-rig, such as occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in April last year. This is a finite, reasonably easily-accessible, cache of fuel in a ship on the surface of the sea.

Now consider what the situation might be if this was a drilling rig and oil was spewing from a drilled-hole three kilometres down, under the surface of the sea.

I think we’re starting to build up a picture now?

And to really drive home the enormity of what Petrobras and our government are planning, and the very real, possible consequences – I offer the reader this depressing ‘slice of recent history’,

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Full Story

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We have been given the clearest, most blatantly obvious warning what lies in store for us if we take risks with deep-sea drilling off our coastline.

It should be abundantly clear to even the most ardent, fool-hardy,  supporter of deep-sea drilling that New Zealand is simply unable to cope with major oil spills. We do not have the expertise, equipment, or organisational structure to deal with such an event.

We have been served notice. And that notice consists of one word, four letters: R E N A.

It is also a test:   just how thick are we, collectively, to ignore that warning?

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Acknowledgement of top photo, “Welcome to East Cape”

Torangapu Thomas Moki

Additional reading

It’s Déjà vu All Over Again

Gary Taylor: Sloppy oil mining rules too risky

World’s Largest Oil Rig Sinks

Rena timeline

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Next story

Evidently it’s a “balancing act”?

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