Spill off Port of Rome
In early February, 1972 (Mar. Poll. Bull., 3 (5), 66-67, 1972) an unknown quantity of fuel oil was discharged via an outlet pipe from Dalmore"distillery into the Cromarty Firth, Easter Ross, north-east Scotland; and on 9 February, a further 300 gallons were similarly lost from the Invergordon distillery nearby, when an oil tank was over-filled. The material discharged from these pipes attracts large numbers of wintering wildfowl and 200 out of some 278 Mute Swans among them became oiled. Other species included Whooper Swans Cygnus cygnus, Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula, and Scaup Aythya marila. This is now the thirteenth oil pollution incident in recent years in this increasingly industrialized area also noted for its wildlife, and already the site of the Dewdale oil spill (event 21-72). W. R. P. BOURNE
An Indian tanker was recently fined $860,000 for damages caused when 20 tons of oil escaped into the sea from a broken pump. This is the first occasion in Italy where a tanker responsible for polluting the sea has been forced to pay a fine. The incident took place three miles off the Italian coast, at Fiumicino, the port of Rome. Wind and sea currents pushed the slick northwards, endangering 30 km of coastline and threatening the beaches of Tyrrhenian Sea resorts to the north of Rome. Ten ships are involved in the clean-up efforts, so that most of the coastline has been saved.
Sunken Carbide in the Skagerrak Earlier this year a Norwegian ship, the Nordaas, sank between Denmark and Norway. The 200-ton vessel was carrying a cargo of calcium carbide which, on mixing with water, forms the harmless compound calcium hydroxide and acetylene gas. The latter is a poisonous gas which forms explosive mixtures with air and is thus highly dangerous. Ships and aircraft in the area were warned of the risks of a possible explosion, and a search for the sunken vessel has been launched in view of the dangerous chemicals on board.
Bottles or Cans? A $16.5 million investment is certainly worth fighting for. Australian Consolidated Industries are doing just that by starting up a joint venture with a Japanese firm, Daiwa Can Company, to manufacture two-piece beer and soft-drink cans in Sydney and Melbourne. A.C.I., the nation's largest glass maker has always claimed 'good things come in glass', but has decided to diversify production to cover the rapidly growing market for steel and aluminium cans. But there are few beaches in Australia which are not already littered with throw away cans, and the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Conservation has been holding a series of public hearings on whether there should be a substantial deposit on all beverage containers. A.C.I. claimed that millions could be 'deprived' of beer and soft-drinks in modern containers (the package being more important than the contents), that Australia's retailing industry would be subject to considerable cost burdens and (almost incidentally) that the company would have to write off three brand new plants. The Department of Environment and Conservation, who also appeared at the hearing, recommended a 10 cent deposit on beverage containers to help ensure the proper use of resources, to reduce litter, and to reduce problems of waste disposal. DAVID HUGHES 52
Oil from the Depths At a Financial Times conference on the Law of the Sea, held in London at the end of February, Mr. E. P. Wheaton, a vice-president of the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, claimed that huge reserves of crude oil and natural gas under the seabed in water depths never before explored, were probably greater than those in all the land and shallow water areas of the world. Structures containing oil and lying under between 600 ft and 10,000 ft of water were much thicker than those under shallower waters. In 1970, only 16% of the world's total oil production came from under the sea. 'By 1980, world oil production is expected to reach 86 million barrels per day, more than double the 1970 figure, and by then 50% will be obtained from offshore oil fields.' Mr. Wheaton also predicted that the search for hydrocarbons would be extended this year into water 2,000 ft deep and that the capability would be extended each year until drilling could be carried out at depths of at least 10,000 ft (2 miles) below the surface. Production facilities in deeper waters would either be on the seabed itself, on anchored floating platforms, or a combination of both. Facilities would be connected horizontally by deep water pipelines and by vertical marine risers. Production does present its engineering problems but technology is being developed for man to safely utilize these resources, e.g. those of the continental shelf. Diver systems are expensive and limited. Consequently, the one-atmosphere production habitats on the sea bottom with access via diving bells are expected to be the most promising of the new subsea methods. Lockheed Petroleum Services have just completed the second part of a three-phase programme to build a complete oil field on the sea bed, with all its equipment housed in one-atmosphere chambers which can be visited by maintenance personnel travelling from the surface in a similarly pressurized capsule. The land testing of the new subsea oil field manifold centre is expected to take place in August of this year, following which it will be installed permanently on the seabed in the Gulf of Mexico and put into commercial operation. The third phase of the programme will be the design and development of a seabed production station to pump oil and gas ashore, to a surface platform or loading buoy, depending on the location of the field.