Rupture of Shell pipeline causes 'substantial' spill


Royal Dutch Shell’s ruptured North Sea pipeline has caused a “substantial” spill, with oil still leaking into the sea, the British government and the company has said.

The department of energy and climate change said yesterday that “estimates are that the spill could be of several hundred tonnes”.

A spill on that scale would be the worst in the North Sea since 2000, when more than 500 tonnes was spilt, according to data supplied by the department.

Shell said about 216 tonnes of oil, equivalent to 1,300 barrels, had leaked into the North Sea in a “significant spill”.

“Work continues to stop the oil remaining in the flowline from leaking,” the company said in a separate statement. “We estimate the current rate of leakage is less than five barrels a day.”

Oil from Shell’s Gannet field has been spilling into the ocean since last Wednesday, but the rate has been falling since the company shut off the well the same day.

By comparison, almost five million barrels gushed into the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s well last year.

“In the context of the UK continental shelf, the spill is substantial,” a spokesman for the department said, noting that assessment of the size of a spill is subject to revision. “They [Shell] are working to completely halt any further leakage.”

Shell said the incident was a “significant spill in the context of annual amounts of oil spilled in the North Sea”.

The oil slick from the leak, 180km (112 miles) off the Scottish port of Aberdeen, covered about 37sq km, said the company’s spokesman.

Environmentalists Greenpeace and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) complained about a lack of information.

“Thousands of young razorbills, puffins and guillemots are flightless and dispersing widely in the North Sea during late summer, so they could be at serious risk if contaminated by this spill,” Stuart Housden, director of RSPB Scotland said.

A spokesman for the Scottish government said fishing boats continued to operate.