Caption: Area damaged by fire and sand lizard on affected area at Upton Heath © Simon Cripps
Caption:Photograph taken of the oil rig from the end of Bournemouth Pier © Tom Scrase
The Corallian Colter Exploratory oil rig arrived in a well of controversy in Poole Bay last month (February 2019) to commence drilling. Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT), key business people and members of the Bournemouth community have expressed concern about the government-approved project.
Following consultation last year, DWT, had called for changes to the proposal and most contaminated cuttings will now be disposed of onshore.
Emma Rance, DWT’s marine conservation officer said, “Despite our requests, DWT continue to be worried about the remaining drill cuttings that will be discharged onto the seabed with the potential to impact species within the vicinity. Studland Bay, which is only four kilometres away from the drill site is a known breeding ground for seahorses. Short-snouted seahorses (protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981) are recorded within the licensed drilling area in Poole Bay.”
Drilling was scheduled to occur during the winter to reduce impacts on migratory species, spring and summer spawning of fish and on foraging seabirds. DWT is now concerned that the activity will overrun as the recommended 38 days of drilling was between 1 November 2018 and 28 February 2019.
The campaign group Save Our Shores Bournemouth has announced that 6,700 tonnes of chemicals will be discharged into the sea, posing a threat to both the coast and marine life.
Dr Simon Cripps, chief executive of Dorset Wildlife Trust said, “We worry about the potential risk of pollution to wildlife, people and local businesses from a range of chemicals that will purportedly be discharged into the sea, in such a highly sensitive and valuable natural environment. Poole Bay is not the place for such activities. The time, effort, money and research necessary to conduct such a project would be better used on renewable energy alternatives and not drilling in such a sensitive area.”
However, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is reported to have said the proposed chemical use and discharge “would not pose a significant environmental risk.”
In 2015, conservative MPs rejected the plans for an offshore wind farm, Navitus Bay, located 10km South of Dorset over concerns about the project’s visual impact.
Cheryl Hadland, managing director at Tops Days Nursery, UK said,“Since the oil rig arrived, we know of dead dog fish arriving on the shore, two the first day, five the second, which is something we never normally see. I hate to think what all those chemicals are doing to our fish life, shellfish, and underwater environment, not forgetting that fish and shellfish are part of the human food chain for many, so locals are going to be eating those chemicals if any of the fish in the area survive.”
And the prospective parliamentary candidate for Christchurch Green Party, Chris Rigby, added, “The drilling for oil by Corallian puts our entire coast at risk, besides the potential for a spill, which would be an environmental disaster.”
According to the Corallian documentation, the Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit will be on location for up to 45 days. After drilling, the well will be capped off and abandoned.
Any commercial development would be carried out via extended-reach wells from onshore.
Located approximately four kilometres off the coast of Studland, the rig can be seen from the coastline stretching from Christchurch to Purbeck.
This post was edited on 11 February 2019 and the quote by Olivia O’Sullivan, General Manager from the Green House Hotel has been removed. The replacement quote from Olivia O’Sullivan is as follows:
“I am incredulous that this is being allowed when the Navitus bay wind farm was refused in 2015. The oil rig is more of an eyesore and will have such a terrible impact on the environment. Nearly 7,000 tons of chemicals will be released when the sea bed is drilled. Our UNESCO heritage site will certainly be challenged. It’s time to stand against this as a community for the sake of our economy, environment and our children. Oil rigs and seaside holiday resorts do not go hand in hand.”
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