March 2, 2021

Shell Tries to Control North Sea Oil Leak

Oil is seeping into the North Sea after a platform flow line in the seabed sprung a leak, dumping several hundred barrels of oil into the water, according to the British subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell and a Scottish official.

The spill, announced by the company on Friday, is in the central North Sea area known as the Gannet field, about 112 miles east of Aberdeen, Scotland, and has resulted in a sheen of oil on the water’s surface about 20 miles long and 2.5 miles wide, the company said. As of Friday night “leakage of oil has been considerably reduced,” according to a press release posted on the Shell Web site. There was no indication that the leak had been fully stopped.

The company has been vague about the quantity of oil spilled as well as the cause of the rupture, but Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish regional government, said that around 110 tons of oil, the equivalent of about 750 barrels, had poured into the sea, according to Reuters. Shell did not respond to calls Saturday night.

In comparison, last year’s BP Deepwater Horizon disaster spewed nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

“Our current expectation is it will be naturally dispersed through wave action and will not reach shore,” Shell said in the online statement.

The slick is moving west, though no word has been given about the state of the oil beneath the water’s surface. Shell deployed a remotely operated vehicle to monitor seepage into the seabed, the release said.

Shell announced the spill on Friday, but according to their press release the company had been trying to control the leak since at least Wednesday.

Environmental groups like Greenpeace want the company to disclose more information so that contingency and clean-up plans can be formulated, according to Reuters.

The North Sea was the site of a devastating oil disaster in 1988, when 167 workers on the Piper Alpha, a platform owned by Occidental Petroleum, were killed.

The Gannet field is operated by Shell U.K. Limited. The company also operates it on behalf of two other companies, Esso Exploration, of which Exxon Mobil is the parent company, and Production U.K. Limited, a subsidiary of the Nippon Oil Corporation.

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