‘They say’, said the reporter carefully, ‘that the age of cheap oil is over’. ‘They’ being a group of invisible and anonymous experts. The sentiment, however, seems to ring true. In order to exploit dwindling oil reserves, the industry is pushing into more extreme environments, for example deeper seas and further offshore, than it would have worked in before. This raises some difficult questions. Does the escalating cost of what may be described as the ‘oil addiction’ of modern societies, now include an increased risk embedded in the deployment of newer technologies in more difficult environments? And with such an increased risk would there not be an inevitability of increased accidents; and, arguably, the deeper a well and the further offshore it is, the more difficult it may be to cap?
The latest horrify and still expanding spill in the Gulf of Mexico points to this, but we should also not forget the recent major spill in Australia where another offshore rig started to leak and also proved very difficult to staunch.
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