Chevron has admitted its new deepwater drilling campaign off the Shetland Islands could cause an oil spill worse than BP's accident in the Gulf of Mexico.
The US oil giant believes that, in a worst-case scenario, the North Sea well could release 77,000 barrels per day – 25pc more than gushed into US waters this year.
Chevron has doubled its worst possible forecast from 35,000 barrels per day, after reviewing all its data in the light of BP's accident. Richard Cohagan, managing director of Chevron UK, said the high-pressure nature of the area led to the larger estimate. "Deepwater Horizon has given us a new perspective on how bad things could be," he said. "When we looked at the core pressures and what seismic has shown us might be the producing interval, we calculated what the largest spill rate could be. "We actually came up with a very large spill rate in that condition of 77,000 barrels - actually more than BP's Macondo."
Chevron is currently drilling the Lagavulin prospect around 160 miles north of the Shetland Islands in 1,569m of water - deeper than BP's ruptured well. Bad weather conditions recently stopped Chevron's work on Lagavulin for eight days. Oil companies across the North Sea have been re-examining their operations since BP's Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 men. However, oil companies and an expert from the Health and Safety Committee yesterday told MPs on the Energy Committee that Britain's safety regime is the best in the world.