Scientists Pressure British Petroleum Into Reviewing West Africa Offshore Drilling Project
Fossil fuel giant British Petroleum (BP) was given the green light by Mauritania and Senegal for the proposed Greater Tortue Ahmeyim (GTA) offshore gas drilling project in the North Atlantic Ocean. Scientists who reviewed the company’s impact assessment of the project complained that it was inaccurate. After four years of lobbying, the company finally agreed to redo the assessment.
“It was all nonsense. The worst part was the research for biodiversity in the deep sea. Many of the species in the BP study do not exist in the area and they don’t identify the different currents, even the easy ones. I’m glad we convinced BP to redo the analysis.” – Sandra Kloff, marine biologist
North Atlantic Concession
In 2018, BP was awarded a concession to drill in the North Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Mauritania and Senegal. The company plans to extract 2.5 million metric tons of liquid gas per year over a 20-year period to be transported via pipelines that will cut through the world’s largest deep cold water coral reef.
BP submitted a 4,400-page environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) to Mauritanian and Senegalese governments in 2018. But an independent review of the ESIA by the Dutch Commission for Environmental Evaluation (CNEE) by 10 scientists found that it did not acknowledge the dangers to the 600-kilometer-long reef that is home to many species that local fishing communities depend on for food.
For example, Mauritania’s coast lies on the east Atlantic flyway, a major global migration route for waterbirds. The main project terminal is less than 5 kilometers from the Diawling national park which hosts 250 different bird species; the marine protected area of Saint-Louis, a feeding ground for whales and dolphins; and the Guembuel reserve that is home to flamingoes, monkeys and tortoises.
“Artisanal anglers come fishing every day in these areas to make a living for their families. But so far we have received nothing in terms of compensation. What are we going to do?” – Elhadji Dousse Fall, president of the association of artisanal line fishers in Saint Louis
Africa Eye and Panorama, BBC television shows, uncovered evidence that BP agreed to pay $10 billion to PetroTim, a company mostly owned by the brother of Macky Sall, the president of Senegal, which was awarded concessions by the Senegalese government to explore two offshore oil blocks.
CNEE acknowledged the flaws in its EISA shortly after the scientists published their open letter in December 2018. In 2022, Eco Afrik Foundation and Flora & Fauna International conducted a review of BP’s ESIA on behalf of the company and confirmed the findings of the scientists. In February 2023, BP agreed to further reviews although it has yet to promise to make any changes to the drilling plans.
“We aim to contribute towards the conservation of the marine ecosystem in Mauritania and Senegal.” – Marie Diop Toguyeni, BP head of communications and external affairs in Mauritania and Senegal
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