The oil leak on a flowline system that serves the Shell-operated Gannet Alpha platform in the North Sea has spilled an estimated 1,300 barrels, or 216 tonnes, a Shell spokesperson said. The spill remains under control, with the well shut in on Wednesday, Aug. 10 and work underway to completely halt any further oil leakage.
"This is a significant spill in the context of annual amounts of oil spilled in the North Sea. We care about the environment and we regret that the spill happened. We have taken it very seriously and responded promptly to it," said Glen Cayley, technical director of Shell's exploration and production activities in Europe, in a statement today.
Cayley estimates that the current rate of leaking is less than five b/d. The sheen, which also changes from day to day, is 0.5 square kilometres in size. The spill is a light crude oil with a low wax content (API-36). There is also some hydraulic fluid in present.
Cayley added, "The high winds and waves over the weekend have led to a substantial reduction in the size of the oil sheen as can be seen from the current levels on the water. We continue to expect that the oil sheen will disperse naturally due to wave action and that it will not reach the shore."
Personnel on the platform are safe and the platform continues to operate. A standby vessel, Grampian Prince, remains on station monitoring the area, with oil spill response equipment and dispersant available if required. Shell's emergency response team remains in place and is working with the relevant authorities (DECC, MCA, Marine Scotland, Scottish Government) to manage the incident and minimize its environmental impact.
"We are also in contact with RSPB and other environmental agencies. We will be sharing our latest estimates with them as well as what we know about the nature of the oil, and the monitoring of wildlife," said Cayley.
The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said its environmental inspectors will continue to monitor the situation and have been working closely with the company and counterparts from the Health and Safety Executive, Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Marine Scotland since the spill was reported last week.
"Although small in comparison to the Macondo, Gulf of Mexico, incident, in the context of the UK Continental Shelf the spill is substantial – but it is not anticipated that oil will reach the shore and indeed it is expected that it will be dispersed naturally.
"The UK Continental Shelf oil spill record is strong which is why it is disappointing that this spill has happened. We take any spill very seriously and we will be investigating the causes of the spill and learning any lessons from the response to it."
The Gannet field is in the Central North Sea around 112 miles (180 km) east of Aberdeen. It is operated by Shell U.K. Limited on behalf of itself and Esso Exploration and Production UK Limited.
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