The Stena Carron drilling rig has begun work on a new deep sea field 78 miles north-west of Shetland – days after permission was granted by the UK government.
BP Exploration is using the vessel to drill to depths of almost 1,300m in the North Uist well for Faroe Petroleum and partners CIECO Exploration, Idemitsu Petroleum and Nexen Petroleum.
Environmental groups have criticised the decision by energy minister Charles Hendry to approve the operation in light of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
Dr Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland, said: “New deepwater drilling is just not worth the risk because we should be phasing out our use of oil instead of chasing ever more difficult sources.
“BP have already made it clear that a major spill from this well would be a disaster for fishing, tourism and wildlife, with oil washing up in the Northern Isles and as far away as Norway.”
But Faroe Petroleum chief executive Graham Stewart said: “We are very pleased to announce the spudding of this frontier exploration well in one of our core areas.
“The North Uist prospect offers significant resource potential and is in close proximity to a number of important discoveries on the Atlantic Margin Corona Ridge, including Rosebank and Cambo.”