The Brent Spar Incident

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The Brent Spar Incident

By | October 2008
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The Brent Spar was an oil storage buoy located on the Brent oilfield in the North Atlantic Ocean, which was operated by Shell UK. It was used to store oil that was extracted from the under sea oilfield until an oil tanker transported the oil to land. The Brent Spar became obsolete around 1991 because of the building of an underwater oil pipeline that took the extracted oil directly to land. Shell UK then did a scientific, economic, and environmental study pertaining to the eventual disposal of the Spar, and concluded that deep sea disposal was the best option. Unfortunately, Shell UK forgot to take into consideration the political and public affects of the planned disposal. Greenpeace became actively involved in the stopping of the off-shore disposal once it was announced that Shell was given permission by the UK government to go ahead with the disposal. Greenpeace argued the Spar’s contents, as measured by Shell, were grossly miscalculated and the environmental impact would be catastrophic. This led to Greenpeace activists actually occupying the Brent Spar, bringing along journalist and reporters to document their findings and report their beliefs to the public. The media coverage brought a great deal of negative press and attention to Shell UK about their planned off-shore disposal. Consequently, “A campaign by Greenpeace – including coordinating a Europe-wide boycott of Shell petrol-filling stations – forced Shell to abandon plans to sink the Spar on June 20th, 1995.” After this decision by Shell, the Brent Spar was taken to an off-shore location in Norway, where it was anchored until an alternative disposal plan was agreed upon. An audit was conducted by an independent firm about the contents and claim of toxic material located on the Spar. The firm found no evidence of toxic material and that the oil content was only 150 tons (close to Shell’s estimate) compared to the Greenpeace estimate of 5,500 tons. The damage to Shell’s image had already...
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