Investigation of a methane leak in the North SeaUntersuchung eines Methan-Lecks in der Nordsee

Greenpeace Finds North Sea Gas Leak Caused By Offshore Blow-out

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August 18, 2020

The ROV (ROUV, Remotely operated underwater vehicle) is lowered into the Water from on Bord the Esperanza. The Vehicle is launched into the UK Part of the North Sea to investigate a methane leak at the Seabed. Photo via Greenpeace

Activists on board the Greenpeace ship Esperanza have discovered a large methane leak located in the British exclusive economic zone in the North Sea. Using a Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle, they were able to film two of the gas-emitting craters at about 100m water depth on the seafloor, which are between 50 and 15 meters in diameter and up to 20 and 9 meters deep, respectively. The leak was caused by a major blow-out during an oil-drilling operation 30 years ago, and is still emitting methane gas.

“Like many places across the North Sea, climate-destroying methane has been leaking here for decades, yet the oil and gas industry, instead of closing the leak and monitoring it, continues to drill holes in the sea bed.” said Dr Sandra Schöttner, a marine biologist with Greenpeace Germany. “We are in the middle of a climate crisis fueling fires, floods and inequality across the world and this leaking methane is a climate change multiplier.”

According to Greenpeace, in 1990, the Swedish Stena Drilling Company, on behalf of Mobil North Sea (now Exxon Mobil), accidentally tapped a gas pocket with the drilling platform High Seas Driller while searching for oil, causing a blowout that resulted in several craters on the seabed. An international team of scientists had previously been to this site and estimated in 2015 that up to 90 liters of methane per second were being released. Theleaking borehole has been returned by Exxon Mobil to the British state who in 2000 determined that further monitoring was not required, believing that the reservoir would soon be depleted. But 30 years later the greenhouse gas keeps escaping into the atmosphere.

The Greenpeace ships Esperanza and Rainbow Warrior are on a month-long documentation and peaceful protest tour to document the impacts the extraction of fossil fuels is making in the North Sea.

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