Greenpeace's Brent Spar apology

NICHOLAS SCHOON

Environment Correspondent

Shell yesterday welcomed a Greenpeace apology for publicising a seriously mistaken estimate of the amount of oil left on board the Brent Spar.

At the height of its successful campaign against the dumping at sea of Shell's redundant oil storage buoy, Greenpeace claimed the Brent Spar could have more than 5,000 tons of oil still in its tanks. Shell said there was only 100 tons of an oily sludge inside, most of which consisted of inert silt.

Greenpeace UK's executive director Peter Melchett has admitted the estimate was a mistake in a letter to Shell UK chairman, Dr Christopher Fay.

The energy minister, Tim Eggar, yesterday said Greenpeace's campaign against dumping the Spar 7,000ft deep in the North-east Atlantic was "completely misleading". He told BBC Radio 4: "I think the media themselves recognise they were conned." Greenpeace UK's head of science, Susan Meyer, said the organisation was obliged to own up as soon as it discovered its error. "I don't regret being honest, and I still feel extremely comfortable about the stance Greenpeace took against dumping this structure at sea," she said. "We're owning up to minor mistake."

During its campaign Greenpeace relied almost entirely on Shell's own, published statements about the quantity of toxic substances left inside the Spar. These contaminants included heavy metals and mildly radioactive salts, which Greenpeace said posed a substantial environmental threat, along with the crude oil residue.

While its activists were occupying the structure, they lowered containers down vent pipes leading to the crude oil storage tanks, which Shell said had been filled with seawater. From this sampling, Greenpeace concluded that the top 60ft of the 300ft tanks were filled by oil. Now Greenpeace has confessed that the sample containers may have taken oil trapped in the pipes. "We didn't take account of the length of the vent pipes," said Dr Meyer. "We regret it."

The error came to light after correspondence with Det Norske Veritas (DNV), the independent Norwegian standards and certification authority commissioned by Shell to assess what pollutants are in the structure.

Meanwhile, two government-funded marine scientists have attacked some assumptions put forward by Shell in justifying sea dumping. Dr John Gage and Dr John Gordon, of the Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory, have also asked why the Government failed to consult them before approving the dumping.

Their laboratory in Oban, Scotland, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, has more knowledge about conditions on the sea bed of the dump site, the Rockall Trough, than any other. In a letter to Greenpeace, they assert a Shell-commissioned report justifying dumping was wrong to say relatively few species lived in the deep sea. They also say the analysis ignores the possibility undersea storms could bring pollution towards the surface.

The Brent Spar is anchored in a Norwegian fjord while Shell decides how to dispose of it. The company has not ruled out sea-dumping as long as public opinion can be won over.

Leading article, page 16

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders