Norway Police to Investigate BP North Sea Oil Leak

OSLO - Police in Norway said Thursday it has decided to investigate a Sept. 12 oil and gas leak at the BP Plc.-operated Ula field in the North Sea.

"We have been in dialog with the Petroleum Safety Authority (or PSA) which sees this as very serious," said Bjorn Kare Dahl, leader of the North Sea and Environment unit at the Rogaland police district on the west coast of Norway.

The PSA said Tuesday it was investigating a "substantial" escape of hydrocarbons at the Ula production platform in the southern sector of the North Sea, and that the episode had "substantial potential."

"We were alerted by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, but didn't see the scope," said Mr. Dahl. "Then we got input from the PSA that it was more serious than what we first thought. We had a dialog with the PSA through the weekend, and decided Monday to investigate."

Prosecutors could decide to fine the operator BP if it's found guilty of any wrongdoing, and has fined other companies for worker accidents and leaks. In 2005, Statoil ASA accepted a 80 million krone ($14.06 million) fine following a gas blowout on the Snorre A platform.

"If the prosecutor decides so, a fine is the usual [reaction]," Mr. Dahl said, underlining that it's far too early to talk about any reaction at this stage of the investigation.

The police couldn't say how long the investigation would take. The PSA said its investigation would take months rather than weeks. In addition, BP has launched an internal investigation of the matter, which it said was standard procedure.

BP Norway didn't want to comment on the news that the police had opened an investigation.


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