British Petroleum (BP) will start drilling off the Libyan coast within a few weeks, the corporation announced Saturday, despite lingering questions over the deal which led to the exploration and concerns about the oil firm’s role in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The move comes as BP faces increased scrutiny over its acquisition of rights to a big oil and gas field off the African coast three years ago, a subject that overshadowed the visit of David Cameron, UK prime minister, to Washington this week.
At 1700 metres below sea-level in Libya’s Gulf of Sirte, the well is planned to reach 200 metres deeper than the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico which triggered the worst US offshore oil spill disaster when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on 20 April, killing 11 people.
“Drilling will start within a few weeks,” BP confirmed.
According to the Financial Times, US President Barack Obama’s imposition of a moratorium on deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has highlighted the growing importance of new exploration across the Mediterranean.
Diamond Offshore, a US deep-water driller, is moving a rig from the Gulf of Mexico to Egypt, while Australia’s APX started drilling last week between Tunisia and Italy. Shell plans to start exploring soon off western Sicily.
“You don’t stop flying because of a plane crash,” said Shokri Ghanem, head of Libya’s national oil company who signed the 2007 deal with BP’s CEO Tony Hayward in the presence of Tony Blair, then UK prime minister.
However, environmentalists and politicians have expressed concerns. A proposal by Günther Oettinger, Europe’s energy commissioner, for a moratorium on deep-water drilling in European Union waters failed to receive a response from Mediterranean states.
Antonio D’Alì, chairman of the Italian Senate’s environment commission, called for a unified approach from governments.
British foreign minister William Hague assured earlier this month that there was no evidence BP had any connection with the release of Libyan Abdel Basett al-Megrahi, who was convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.
BP had been accused of pressing on the then-British government to release el-Megrahi so BP could pursue its oil exploration deal with Libya.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.