By MEGAN REYNOLDS Tribune Staff Reporter email@example.com
FEARS for marine life have been raised by environmental activists as Bahamas Petroleum Plc takes initial steps explore for oil across 3,000 sq ft of Bahamian waters.
The oil and gas exploration company with offshore licence permits for the Bahamas has commenced a six week high resolution seabed survey under a contract with Fugro NV, which will inform the more detailed, 90-day, 3D seismic survey by CGGVeritas.
But environmentalists are concerned the seismic surveys may harm marine mammals, fish and corals, and say they should not go ahead prior to an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
Seismic surveys involve sending shockwaves to the ocean floor in a series of blasts through airguns. The concern is that the sound of the shockwaves, which typically resound at up to 260 decibels, will disturb marine mammals and other sealife.
Scientists have proven that any sound over 180 decibels can cause marine mammals to suffer hearing loss, brain haemorrhage and even death, according to environmental non-profit Greenpeace.
The sound also disturbs their echolocation, communication, and diverts them away from their breeding grounds, and can also injure fish bladders, essentially killing the fish, and may also impact coral reefs.
Sam Duncombe, of local non-profit reEarth, said: “These are things we can’t afford to take lightly.
“It’s extremely irresponsible of our government to allow them to do seismic testing without an EIA.
“It should have been a requirement.
“We are not talking about a quiet exploration of oil here, we are talking about a lot of noise over a long period of time, in a pristine marine environment.”
British law requires EIAs for seismic and high resolution surveys in sensitive sea areas and areas where it may affect a protected habitat or species.
And as the seismic surveys by Bahamas Petroleum will be done in the pristine waters of the Cay Sal Bank in the southwest Bahamas, an important area for fisheries, Ms Duncombe said there is good reason for concern.
CGGVeritas maintain the BroadSeis imaging technology being used in the Bahamas, for the first time in the western hemisphere since it was launched last June, has extremely low noise characteristics as it uses solid Sentinal streamers, rather than gel-filled streamers, to send shockwaves to the ocean floor from the vessel SR/V Veritas Viking.
CGGVeritas maintains Sentinel streamers are quieter and can be towed deeper than other streamers, reaching depths of up to 60m, and have an instrument low-cut of 2Hz, recording high-quality signal down to at least 2.5Hz.
However the noise level is not articulated on the CGGVeritas website and email inquiries were not answered before press time.
The noise frequency generated is said to be around 20 decibels lower than average seismology and the quietist in the industry, according to the CGGVeritas website.
An EIA is not required by government for seismic surveys of the 1,155 sq mile area, and Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology (BEST) Commission engineer Loraine Cox said she does not expect to receive the EIA and Environmental Management Plan (EMP) for drilling and other activities until later this year.
Providing the surveys reveal large rock structures storing enough oil to justify the cost of drilling infrastructure and oil extraction, Bahamas Petroleum chief executive Paul Crevello expects to start drilling in 2012.
He said the seismic tests will go on until the end of August, the data is likely to be fully processed in January, and then several more months of interpretation will follow before a well location, or locations, will be finalised.
The Bahamas Petroleum Company Plc has five petroleum licences covering 15,676 km2 (3,873,546 acres) in the territorial waters and maritime Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Bahamas, with four in the southeast Bahamas near the maritime border with Cuba, and an isolated fifth licence held by Island Offshore Petroleum Ltd, a Bahamian subsidiary of Bahamas Petroleum Company Plc.
Minister of the Environment Earl Deveaux maintains there should be stringent protocols in place before drilling begins.
Nearly 600 people concerned about the potentially damaging impact of oil exploration and drilling have signed, and are encouraging others to sign a petition on: www.thepetitionsite.com/1/NO-OIL
For more information about CGGVeritas log on to www.cggveritas.com and find updates about oil exploration in the Bahamas on www.bpcplc.com.
- Acorn International of Dartmouth, MA, has partnered with SEV Consulting of Nassau, Bahamas and has initiated an environmental impact assessment of the four southern licences.
This study will evaluate the possible environmental risks of drilling an exploration well in the southern licence area.
Full assessment of the impact of drilling on the natural environment such as fish and mammal populations, the physical environment such as water quality, air quality and waste management and socioeconomic aspects will be assessed.
Published On:Tuesday, May 31, 2011