Shetland Oil Report Disaster Warning: WWF Scotland Comment

WWF Scotland today (Friday 4 February) repeated its call for Scotland to be investing in its huge renewable energy potential, rather than pursuing new oil drilling.

The environmental group made the call in response to revelation that the environmental statement [1] of a company wishing to drill off the west of Shetland warns that millions gallons of oil could spill into the sea and spread as far south as Norfolk and toward the coasts of Ireland, Iceland and Norway after a blowout.

According to the environmental statement by oil exploration company HESS to drill a well called Cambo 4 the Shetland Islands and their internationally-important colonies of seabirds would bear the brunt of a spill and pollute some of Scotland's most important fisheries. It also said that attempts to contain the slick “are unlikely to be effective” because of the low temperatures, heavy seas and high winds common in the area.

Last month the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change select committee also expressed concern that inadequate equipment and poor planning could delay attempts to cap a leaking well off Shetland. [2]

WWF Scotland’s Director, Dr Richard Dixon, said:

“This report once again highlights the dangers to the marine environment of drilling for oil in yet even deeper water. Oil companies simply have no idea how they would deal with a major deep water oil spill. Perhaps the most remarkable part of this study is that the company admit that the 10-day spill they have considered is far from the worst case. Given that the Gulf spill lasted 86 days, the authorities should rule this assessment as incompetent.

“A major accident could release many hundreds of times the oil spilt in the 1983 Braer disaster. Wildlife, fishing and tourism in Shetland and beyond could be devastated for many years.

“Last month a House of Commons report found that the current UK oil drilling framework falls short of providing the necessary safeguards to protect Scotland's marine environment in the event of an oil spill.

“Given the environmental imperative to end our addiction with oil, the focus of our energy policy must be on making a renewables revolution a reality, building on our tremendous natural advantages in geography, skills and ingenuity.

“Pursuing new oil would undermine the leadership role this country has built on tackling climate change and progressing toward a low carbon economy.”


Media contact: Lang Banks on 01350 728200


[1] The full environmental statement is available here:

Blowout at Shetland oil well could spread to Norfolk coast, The Times


Contact: Lang Banks
Phone: 01350 728200