Shell Removes Trapped Gas From North Sea Gannet Alpha Pipeline

LONDON (Dow Jones Newswires), Nov. 4, 2011

Shell has completed the latest phase in an operation to safely release the remaining gas and oil trapped in an underwater pipe at its Gannet Alpha platform that had spilled some 218 metric tons of crude into the North Sea in late summer.

The leak that caused the spill, the U.K.'s worst in a decade, was sealed Aug. 19 when divers closed a relief valve after battling to stem it for more than a week. Since then, Shell has been engaged in an operation to safely remove the gas and estimated 660 tons of residual oil still in the pipeline.

Nearly all the gas still remaining in the pipeline has now been removed, said Hugh Shaw, the Department of Energy and Climate Change official overseeing the operation.

"I am pleased to announce that the latest phase to remove gas trapped in the Gannet pipeline has been successful. Shell's surveys show that almost all the gas has been removed, significantly increasing the stability of the 4-kilometer pipeline," said Shaw, adding that attention will now turn to safely releasing the oil.

"The final stage of this operation is now to remove the trapped oil and over the next few months Shell will submit their proposed plans to me for approval," said Shaw.

However, he said it was unlikely to begin before spring given the technical nature of the work.

Operations on the platform--which had been shut for routine maintenance when the incident occurred -- will resume again soon, said Shaw.

"The start-up will have no impact on the Gannet F pipeline, which has been physically isolated," he said.

Gannet Alpha is located 180 kilometers east of Aberdeen, Scotland.

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

An investigation into the causes of the leak is still underway, the DECC said.

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