BP and Off-Shore Drilling in the Mediterranean

Reaction in the Mediterranean to BP's plans to start drilling five off-shore wells off the Libyan Gulf of Sirte in October has been surprisingly low key given the British oil giant's recent track record in the Gulf of Mexico. So far, the only group to express vigorous concern, at least in public, has been archeologists: The seabed off that stretch of the Libyan coast is rich in ancient sites and artifacts, including the remains of a sunken port once vital to Roman shipping.

Yet there is nothing particularly reassuring about BP's new $900 million operation, even as the company continues to deal with the multibillion dollar fallout of the Gulf oil spill. Drilling for the Libyan wells will start at a water depth 600 feet deeper than the Macondo well in the Gulf, which was some 5,000 feet. Significantly, Libya and Croatia are the only Mediterranean coastal countries that don't have a contingency plan in place to handle an oil spill in their waters. The Libyan ambassador to Rome, Abdulhafed Gaddur, told Corriere della Sera, "We know what we are doing. We've been doing this for 45 years, without advice from anyone."

Libya is a major oil producer, but Libya's oil drilling has been mainly on land, with some shallow off-shore exploration.

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