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Fossil Fuels

For Decades, Oil & Gas Have Been Poisoning The North Sea With Methane

For decades, as a result of their drilling, the oil and gas industry has been poisoning the North Sea (and, thanks to current, probably every other ocean and sea) as well as heating up our climate for at least 30 years — probably longer — with methane.

For decades, as a result of their drilling, the oil and gas industry has been poisoning the North Sea (and, thanks to current, probably every other ocean and sea) as well as heating up our climate for at least 30 years — probably longer — with methane.

Greenpeace believes that the oil and gas industry is responsible for major methane leak in the North Sea. Around 30 years ago, Mobil North Sea, which is now ExxonMobil, caused an uncontrolled gas outbreak at one of its drilling sites. The leak is still flowing methane into the sea today. Methane is 28 times more harmful to our climate than carbon dioxide.

In 1990, on behalf of Mobil North Sea (ExxonMobil), the Swedish Stena Drilling company tapped a gas pocket with its High Seas Driller (drilling platform). It was searching for oil. It caused a blowout that left several craters on the seabed. In 2015, a group of international scientists who had been to this site before estimated that 90 liters of methane per second were being released.

Methane rising up from the seabed of the North Sea. Image © Greenpeace.

According to Sandra Schöttner, a marine biologist for Greenpeace, the platform is long gone, but even so, methane is spewing into the sea and has been for decades. “The drilling platform has long since disappeared, but methane has been gushing out of the seabed here for decades. Nobody wants to take responsibility, it’s a scandal. We are in the climate crisis, but the oil and gas industry is constantly drilling more holes in the seabed and politics is looking the other way — this must finally stop!” Schöttner said.

That’s just from one hole. There’s more. There are at least 15,000 boreholes in the North Sea. In 2015, independent scientists noted that up to 90 liters per second are flooding the sea. Read that again: 90 liters per second. And this has been going on for decades. That’s a lot of methane in the sea. It gets worse. ExxonMobil returned the leaking borehole to the British State. In 2000, the state determined that further monitoring wasn’t needed. It believed that the reservoir would soon be depleted. However, it’s 2020 and it’s still gushing methane.

According to current studies, a range of between 8,000 and 30,000 tons of methane are released from the 15,000 boreholes that I just mentioned. And there’s still more. 72,000 tons of methane is released into the atmosphere annually due to these operations of the platforms in the North Sea. These platforms have polluted our climate with 30 million tons of carbon dioxide, 110,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, 78,000 tons of volatile organic substances, and 3,771 tons of sulfur dioxide.

Methane rising up from the seabed of the North Sea. Image © Greenpeace.

According to Hintermeier Daily, Greenpeace activists have been documenting a methane leak in the British sector of the North Sea onboard the ship Esperanza. It was caused by the oil and gas industry. Activists used a remote-controlled underwater robot to film two of the gas-emitting craters. One crater has a diameter of 50 meters and the other one has a diameter of 15 meters. That is, for us here in the US, 164 feet and some change for the first hole and 49 feet and some change for the second hole. We are not talking small holes here. Believe it or not, these types of leaks are a common side effect of the oil and gas industry’s drilling.

“The oil and gas industry has been fuelling the climate crisis and polluting our oceans for decades. This industry does not belong in the new green world we need to build after the pandemic. We need a rapid change to renewable energies and a just shift of fossil fuel workers to industries with a future. We need governments to bail out the climate and workers, not the polluters,” Schöttner added.

It’s really time that we all do what we can to cut oil dependency. Governments need to do their part, and consumers theirs. There’s a growing number of attractive, compelling, semi-affordable electric vehicles arriving on the market every year — or every month even — to fit different shapes, sizes, needs, wishes, desires, and so on. There are also more and more used electric vehicles on the market every day as early adopters upgrade and put their pre-2020 EVs up for sale. Going electric is probably the most effective thing most of us can do to reduce future harm from the oil & gas industry.

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Johnna Crider is a Louisiana native who likes crawfish, gems, minerals, EVs, and advocates for sustainability. Johnna is also the host of, a jewelry artisan and a $TSLA shareholder.


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