North Sea leak should raise licensing questions

Richard Harrington By: Richard Harrington
Date posted: 16 August 2011

MCS says it welcomes the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and Marine Scotland’s decision to let natural processes take their course to disperse the oil leaking from the flow line beneath the Gannet Alpha oil platform, 113 miles (180km) off Aberdeen.

MCS says it welcomes the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and Marine Scotland’s decision to let natural processes take their course to disperse the oil leaking from the flow line beneath the Gannet Alpha oil platform, 113 miles (180km) off Aberdeen. The alternative would be to spray chemical dispersants which would only add to the toxic nature of the incident and lead to more oil smothering the seabed. MCS Senior Policy Officer, Melissa Moore, says the cause of these oil leaks must be investigated: “Had these leaks happened in deep water Shell & Esso would have even more problems curbing it, again calling into question whether the UK should continue to license deepwater drilling. According to the BBC, Shell has been dealing with the release of an estimated 216 tonnes - 1,300 barrels - from a leak near the platform discovered on Wednesday 10th August but not revealed to key agencies until Friday 12th. MCS Scotland Programme Manager, Calum Duncan, says lessons must be learnt from delays in reporting. The Department of Energy and Climate Change said it was a “substantial” spill, but should disperse naturally. The oil company said (Tuesday 16th August) it was working to locate the second leak. Commenting on the Shell Gannet F Subsea Flowline oil leak in the North Sea, Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “We take any oil leak extremely seriously, as the First Minister has made clear, and we are continuing to monitor this situation very closely. Marine Scotland officials are participating in the Operational Control Unit - alongside Shell, UK Government departments and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee - and are reporting back to Ministers on a regular basis.” “As is standard practice in incidents such as this, the UK Government, which has responsibility for the pipeline system, will be taking forward an investigation and I will be pressing for the Scottish Government to have a full and formal role, given our responsibilities for the marine environment. While there are inevitable difficulties verifying the extent and size of the leak, it’s vital that Shell and DECC make information available on an open, transparent and regular basis.” “The Scottish Government’s primary role is to advise on the impact any spill might have on the marine environment. Marine Scotland aircraft are currently involved in surveillance work over the affected area. Fishing vessels in the area have also been made aware of the incident.”

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