Licence P.791 - Licence Having Effect Under The Petroleum Act 1998

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22nd September 2000

Pursuant to regulation 5(8) of the above Regulations, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry gives notice that, being content that the requirements of the above Regulations have been satisfied, he has, pursuant to Licence P.791, granted consent to BHP Limited to the drilling of two development wells in block 110/15 (hereafter referred to as "the project"). The consent for the wells took effect from 22nd September 2000.

BHP proposes to drill 2 development wells in the Lennox field (Block 110/15). The Lennox development lies approximately 8 km off the Sefton coast in Liverpool Bay.

Operations are planned to commence in the 3rd quarter 2000.

The Secretary of State is of the view, having regard to the environmental statement prepared in respect of the project and the comments received from those consulted, that the project is not likely to have a significant effect on the environment. In coming to this view, the Secretary of State has taken into account advice received from a number of independent expert sources including the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Countryside Council of Wales and English Nature, Sefton Council and the Wildlife Trusts Wales.

The Secretary of State has considered, among other matters:

  • the atmospheric emissions associated with the drilling activity;
  • the discharge of drill cuttings contaminated with drilling mud to the marine environment;
  • the accidental spillage of hydrocarbon; and

the request from English Nature that appropriate assessments under the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c) Regulations 1994 for two onshore sites be carried out,to meet their concerns of the effects of an oil spill arising from a "blow-out".

Having taken the advice of the organisations listed earlier, the Secretary of State considers that:

the level of atmospheric emissions from the drilling activity will be acceptable as they will be within routine drilling rig operational standards;

as the development wells will be drilled using water-based mud (WBM) andmodelling of the discharge indicated that only a limited area would be impacted, the discharge of cuttings will not cause a significant environmental impact;

the accidental spillage of hydrocarbon falls into two categories - either from a blow-out or from fuel transfer (i.e. the delivery of diesel fuel) at the platform. In the former case, the Secretary of State is satisfied that this is a highly unlikely event and adequate measures will be in place to deal with it should it occur. Similarly, an accidental spillage of diesel fuel is also an unlikely event and again adequate measures will be in place to deal with the effects of such a spillage.

As to the request from English Nature that two appropriate assessments be carried out, the Secretary of State has considered the potential effect of the proposed development drilling on coastal Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas as required by the Conservation (Natural Habitats & c) Regulations 1994 taking into account the advice of English Nature and Countryside Council for Wales. The Secretary of State has concluded that appropriate assessments need not be carried out, as the proposed activity (which is not directly connected with or necessary to the management of the sites for nature conservation purposes) is not likely to have a significant effect on the site.

The Secretary of State considers that a blow-out is extremely unlikely given the fact that 7,872 wells (including side-tracks and re-spuds) have been drilled on the UK Continental Shelf since 1964 with no blowouts occurring that resulted in loss of oil to the marine environment.

The Secretary of State is satisfied that BHP has in place sufficient well control measures and emergency response procedures to minimise the likelihood of an oil spill arising from a blow-out in the highly unlikely event that this occurs.


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