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Monday, August 15, 2011

Shell: 1,300 Barrels of Oil Spilled from North Sea Leak

- Shell: 1,300 Barrels of Oil Spilled from North Sea Leak

Monday, August 15, 2011
Dow Jones Newswires
by Alexis Flynn

Around 1,300 barrels of oil are estimated to have spilled into the U.K. North Sea from a leaking pipeline at a Shell platform since last Wednesday, the Anglo-Dutch major said Monday.

"It isn't easy to quantify the total volume spilled but we estimate so far that it is around 216 tons [1,300 barrels]," said Glen Cayley, technical director of Shell's exploration and production activities in Europe.

The current rate of leaking is less than five barrels a day, Shell said.

Shell said the volume of oil at the sea surface is estimated at around one ton, or around six barrels. Wave action and high winds over the weekend have led to a "substantial" reduction in the size of the visible oil sheen, Cayley said.

"This is a significant spill in the context of annual amounts of oil spilled in the North Sea," said Cayley. "We care about the environment and we regret that the spill happened. We have taken it very seriously and responded promptly to it."

An undersea pipe at the Gannet Alpha platform has been leaking oil into the ocean since last Wednesday. Shell said the leak is "under control" and that the well that feeds the pipeline, shut in since Wednesday, remains closed.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change said that while the spill was small in comparison with BP's Gulf of Mexico accident last year, it was "substantial" in the context of the U.K. continental shelf. DECC said its environmental inspectors will continue to monitor the situation and are working closely with the company and counterparts from the Health and Safety Executive, Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Marine Scotland.

The size of the sea surface affected is estimated to be some 31 kilometers by 4.3 kilometers at its widest point. A sheen, estimated at 0.5 kilometers in size, is currently moving west from the field.

The platform is located 180 kilometers east of Aberdeen, Scotland. Shell operates the platform along with partner ExxonMobil's U.K. unit Esso.

Oil from the Gannet system is taken to Teesside, U.K., through the Fulmar pipeline as part of Ekofisk blend. Production at the facility is estimated to be around 6,000 barrels a day, according to a trader.

The platform had 10 leak incidents in 2009 and 2010, according to an HSE document showing voluntarily declared spills. Only one of the incidents was described as "significant" while the others were logged as "minor."

Copyright (c) 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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