13 Aug 2011

Oil spill off Scottish coast ‘under control’

Environmentalists call for all the details of a 20-mile oil leak off the Scottish coast to be released, as Royal Dutch Shell say the spill is under control

North Sea oil

The oil giant Royal Dutch Shell says it has brought a 20-mile long North Sea oil leak under control.

The leak was found in a flow line connecting an oil well to the Gannet Alpha platform, about 112 miles off the coast of Aberdeen.

The slick is estimated to be 20 miles long and 2.5 miles across at its widest point, but the total amount of oil spilled remains unclear.

Shell said it expected the oil to disperse naturally through “wave action”, and would not reach the Scottish coast.

The company said the well was shut in on Wednesday and the flowline on the seabed has been isolated and depressurised, considerably reducing the leakage.

A spokesman said: “We have deployed a Remote-Operated Vehicle to do inspection checks and monitor the subsea leak which is on a flow line on the sea bed. The relevant authorities continue to be kept informed.

“A stand-by vessel remains on station with oil spill response equipment and dispersant if required. Personnel on the platform are safe and the platform continues to operate.”

We should put things into context. We are probably dealing with a leak here of 100 tonnes or so of oil. Alex Salmond

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said he was satisfied by assurances the leak had been brought under control.

He added: “Although the amount of oil that has been released is pretty limited, we regard all of these incidents with great seriousness and we discharge our responsibilities because of the huge importance of the magnificent marine environment that surrounds Scotland.

“We should put things into context. We are probably dealing with a leak here of 100 tonnes or so of oil.

“But nonetheless, any leak at all, even a pipeline leak, is a serious matter. The first thing is to establish whether the mechanisms are in place to control it as quickly as possible. That is being done at the present moment.

“Then of course an investigation will follow to establish the causes of the incident because the aim of the industry is to have zero incidents of this kind.”

Juliet Swann of environmental charity Friends of the Earth Scotland said: “Given the massive economic importance of the North Sea to Scotland’s rural and business economy, the news that there has been an oil spill in our seas is deeply disturbing.”

RSPB Scotland director Stuart Housden said: “We need to know the type of oil, how much has been released, the local weather conditions and the readiness to deal with any problems.

“These data are vital for proper contingency planning. This area of the North Sea is full of young seabirds dispersing from breeding colonies from Shetland to the Aberdeenshire coast.”