Oil well drilling in Poole Bay to be extended into critical wildlife period

Oil Rig at Poole Bay © Simon Cripps 

Despite concerns expressed by Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) and many local groups, Corallian Energy Limited were granted consent to drill the Coulter Appraisal Well in Poole Bay. The drilling was thought to be strictly limited in line with demands by Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) to protect the highly sensitive wildlife, environment and livelihoods in Poole Bay. DWT has since been made aware that the oil drilling will extend into the critical wildlife period starting in March, despite licence restrictions stating that drilling should stop on 28th February.

Key to the government allowing the drilling to go ahead despite the risks were that the dumping of oiled drill cuttings on the seabed in an area with vulnerable features and bird foraging was to be limited, and that the operation would need to finish by the 28th Feb, prior to a critical fish spawning and bird migration period.

However, for undisclosed operational reasons the drilling rig arrived late, well after the start of the licence period.  As a result, despite the secrecy surrounding the operations, DWT has learnt that the government has granted an extension period (without a revision to the Environmental Impact Assessment or consultation), well into the spring spawning and migration season despite previous assurances in the form of a licence, that this would not happen.  Important commercial species such as cod, herring, sandeel and sole spawn in March whilst many birds such as ducks and geese are migrating through.

DWT Chief Executive, Dr Simon Cripps said, “It is bad enough that this oil drilling operation has been allowed to proceed in such a sensitive and important area between Studland and Bournemouth, without the work extending into a time that is critical for a large range of wildlife in the area.  If the company can’t manage to fulfil their commitments it isn’t the wildlife and local people who should suffer.  At the very least this potentially risky operation needs to finish by the 28th Feb.”

DWT Living Seas Officer Emma Rance said, “The warnings in recent months by the world’s scientists that we are already passing the point of no return of damaging climate change means the UK should not be allowing yet more oil and gas to be extracted.  The money should be spent on supporting renewable energy sources.”