Bohai Bay Oil Spill – Lessons for Arctic Drilling?

Proponents of drilling in the Arctic Ocean claim the risk of significant spills is much lower than in places like the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, because the water is much shallower and the wells won’t be drilled nearly as deep as BP’s failed Macondo well.  But recent spills in the Bohai Bay off China, including a possible blowout in the Peng Lai 19-3 oil field, might lead to a reevaluation of those comforting assumptions. 

Peng Lai 19-3 is a new offshore field operated by US energy giant ConocoPhillips (Halliburton is the drilling contractor).  This is China’s largest offshore oil field and it lies in very shallow water (76′ deep).  The wells are also very shallow, only reaching about 3000′ below the seafloor.  The development includes the largest FPSO in China.  This field represents an investment of at least $1.8 billion by ConocoPhillips.