North Sea oil leak ‘under control’

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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.”