Published on 16 Jan 2013 Sections ,

Major North Sea oil pipeline shut over leak fear

A North Sea oil pipeline is shut after a leak was discovered at a drilling platform, all non-essential workers have been airlifted out as experts work to get the major supply line re-opened.

Major North Sea oil pipeline shut over leak fear

A major pipeline system that provides up to 6 per cent of the UK’s North Sea oil and gas has been shut down due to a leak.

The Brent pipeline system, which services up to 27 oil fields, has been shut after oil was detected in one of the legs of the Cormorant Alpha platform off Shetland.

A group of 92 workers have been airlifted off the Cormorant Alpha platform and a technical team is currently investigating the incident.

Platform operator Taqa explained the infrastructure was shut as a precaution and three technical experts have now been taken aboard.

Eight platforms in the area have reportedly had to cease production stopping the flow of 90,000 oil barrels a day. Oil transported through the Brent pipeline represents between 5 per cent and 6 per cent of the UK’s North Sea oil and gas production.

The Abu Dhabi National Energy Company, Taqa, have confirmed hydrocarbons were detected in the Cormorant Alpha platform on Monday.

A statement explained that no oil has been released into the environment and the company has stopped all non-essential work on the platform.

Jake Molloy of the RMT’s offshore energy branch claimed there is a history of problems in the area but noted that Taqa has taken over control from Shell, who previously ran the installation.

“Taqa are putting money into fixing these problems,” Mr Molloy explained.

“There is a history of problems but there is no immediate concern right now, everything has been shut down and workers have been taken off. This is a routine procedure.”

In 2008 Shell was accused of having a lack of commitment to safety in the North Sea but the company insisted safety was its top priority. The company operated the Cormorant oilfield until July 2008 when Taqa acquired several North Sea assets from Shell UK and Esso.

A statement today explained that Taqa is evaluating plans to restore the throughput of an estimated 80,000 barrels per day in the Brent pipeline, excluding any Cormorant Alpha production.

“This action would occur after thorough technical assurance has established that it can be undertaken safely and without any increased risk,” the company stated.

The incident has raised fears that oil prices will now rise, coinciding with a bout of cold weather across the UK.

However, Professor Alex Kemp, an oil economist at Aberdeen University has explained the closure will have a limited impact on prices.

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “What we have is an incident which impacts on the Brent pricing system which is used as a marker price for a lot of the world’s production.

“If it continues one would expect a limited affect on the Brent price. But the Brent price doesn’t just depend on Brent production, it depends on production from a lot of other fields.

“The effect should be limited because although the Brent price is the marker for a huge volume of oil in the world market, Brent production constitutes not all that big a proportion of the total.”

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