North Sea oil leak ‘under control’


by a Newsnet reporter

The oil company Shell said last night that the leak in a North Sea oil pipeline was now under control.  The company claimed its staff had “stemmed the leak significantly”, and were working to isolate it.  The leak was discovered on Wednesday in a pipe leading to the Gannet Alpha oil platform, 180 km (112 miles) east of Aberdeen.

Shell has not disclosed the amount of oil which leaked into the sea since the leak was discovered but sources within the company said that the amount was “at the very most a couple of hundred tonnes”.  

In a statement Shell said they believed that an area around 31 km long by 4.3 km wide was affected.  The company added that it expected “the sheen to disperse naturally through wave action and not reach the shore”, adding, “Shell takes all spills seriously, regardless of size and we have responded promptly to this incident.

“Our current expectation is it will be naturally dispersed through wave action and will not reach shore.”

The company said that a remote-controlled submarine was running inspection checks and would remain at the site of the leak in order to monitor the situation.  A clean-up vessel and spotter plane were also sent to the scene.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said that the amount of oil released into the North Sea was thought to be “pretty limited” but stressed that the Scottish government would treat any oil pollution incident in the North Sea with “great seriousness”.

Mr Salmond said: “We should obviously put things into context.  We are probably dealing with a leak here of 100 tonnes or so of oil, and if you take the Gulf of Mexico that was half a million tonnes.

“But nonetheless, a pipe line leak is a serious matter so the first thing to establish is whether the mechanisms are in place to control it as quickly as possible.

“That is being done at the present moment, and of course and investigation will follow to establish the cause.”



  1. Good to have a moderate reaction to this. Mr. Salmond knows his stuff. I trust him before anything coming out of the press office of Shell.
    Time will tell who is giving out the true picture here.
    Spills are inevitable in this type of dangerous industry. How effectively they are handled is the best judge of competence!.

  2. It was noticeable in the various reports of this spill how hard the reporters and environmental groups were trying to make this something more than it is.

    Any oil spill is serious but a high degree of ‘over egging’ the pudding was going on particularly when you realise how long it has been since the last spillage of note occurred in the North Sea.

  3. Hi Legerwood,

    I agree that there a tendency to ‘over egg’ especially since the deep water horizon disaster.
    You’ve also got to understand that there is a lot of smaller/larger oil spills not reported every day/week/month/year by oil operators.

    They (operators) will find every excuse under the sun not to report any leakage of oil/toxins into the sea, out of sight out of mind as they say.

    There was an incident late last year, or earlier this year in the North Sea, were allegedly many thousands of barrels of oil were released into the sea, but was never reported.
    The operators found an excuse not to report it or down play the incident.
    The incident was on the Gryphon which is now in Rotterdam for repairs.
    Check out ‘Blowout’ it’s an offshore (union) magazine.

    There’s also one of the older platform in the North Sea owned by the biggest operators offshore (not now) that used to have a permanent sheen of oil on the waters around it.
    This was happening everyday seven days a week 52 weeks of the year.
    This was laughingly known as, by the staff offshore, as ‘surface export’. It was even rumoured that a nimrod aircraft once contacted the platform to notify them of the oil sheen, all the staff would have probably done was to play it down and placated the crew with yes we know we are working on it.
    Then they obviously carried on regardless.
    Management (offshore) knew about it but never tackled the problem at anytime for several years.
    The cost to rectify the problem was too much so they effectively turned a blind eye.

    There are many many incidences of minor oil spills.

    Out of sight out of mind.

    Care and maintenance and cost has a lot to do with most of thes incidences offshore.
    Operators will always look at the cost implications of any repair/upgrade.

    • Alx 1,
      Thanks for the info. Thought your last comment was interesting:

      [quote]Care and maintenance and cost has a lot to do with most of thes incidences offshore.
      Operators will always look at the cost implications of any repair/upgrade.[/quote]

      A situation that may be exacerbated by the extra tax being levied on North Sea operators by the Chancellor of the Exchequer methinks.

  4. Sheens are more often than not caused by oil based mud spills from the drilling operation, not produced crude oil. Drilling muds are usually pretty benign these days.

    • Very true Holebender, but is it still not oil or toxins?

      I should also have added that most of the time this sheen was present there was no drilling operation ongoing.

      • It is still oil, but it will likely be a vegetable-based oil, or a fish oil. They use all sorts of non-petroleum oils in mud these days. Several of the chemicals used are caustic, but few, if any, are toxic. Caustic or acidic chemicals are quickly dispersed and effectively neutralised in the sea.

  5. Virtually every human activity – as well as natural activity and cow-farting has a pollutive effect – thankfully this wonderful eco-system we’re blessed with copes well. When things go too far, in such as nuclear problems, there is no coping and that’s the situation we must avoid at all costs. I like to think I’m “green” in a civic and moral sense, but when comments are made from the strident green lobby, like stopping north sea activities because of potential problems – my eyes glaze over.

    • Ditto.

      I was once on a rig which was invaded by Greenpeace activists. They are the biggest hypocrites going; they use petrol powered boats and wear immersion suits made from petro-chemical derived fabrics as they piously tell us all to stop drilling for oil.

  6. I loved the way this was once again skewed to make a mountain out of a mole hill.

    C4 News Presenter speaking with Greenpeace nutter (they lost credibility years ago) – how will this now affect North Sea Oil in the future and what will be the consequences be to the shoreline around Scotland.

    Is it not great how they talk about Oil and Scotland when it’s anything negative but talk about Oil and money and it would soon change to the UK shoreline.

  7. This spill has happened just off the coast of Aberdeen i`m being told,about as far away from Aberdeen as Edinburgh is!

    Mountains out of molehills by the media,however this spill might have been spotted sooner if there were still regular flights by Nimrods from Kinloss,an easy way for an out of sight out of mind policy in my view!


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