Energy Minister Charles Hendry today reassured the House of Commons that the UK would be able to deal with a Deepwater Horizon -type disaster in UK waters.
Mr Hendry, standing in for Energy Secretary Chris Huhne at departmental questions in Parliament, was asked if such a catastrophe as hit the Gulf of Mexico could happen in the North Sea.
Mr Hendry replied that the UK “now has all the containment devices needed to deal with such an incident”.
He said that the regulatory safety regime already in place – which was born out of the Piper Alpha tragedy 22 years ago – was robust and added that he believed the rest of Europe should upgrade its offshore regimes to come in line with the UK standard.
In the wake of the Gulf of Mexico disaster, Mr Huhne said “the impacts of the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon give us pause for thought, particularly given the beginning of exploration in deeper UK waters west of Shetland”.
However he added: “I am confident that the UK’s regulatory regime is in good shape to manage the risks of deep-water drilling.”
Yet it is this drilling west of Shetland that has enraged many environmental groups, with Greenpeace demanding it cease immediately. The group even prevented a Chevron drillship from sailing for some days by hanging off the vessel’s anchor and swimming in its path.