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Shell accused of secrecy over North Sea platform oil leak

By Ian Forsyth

Published: 15/08/2011

OIL giant Shell was accused last night of being secretive about a North Sea oil spill.

The company was criticised for lack of transparency by both environmental body WWF Scotland and wildlife conservation group RSPB Scotland over the continuing incident at the Gannet Alpha platform.

Between 12 and 120 barrels of oil are understood to have leaked into the North Sea, 112 miles east of Aberdeen, from the pipeline spill spotted last Wednesday. It was two days later, on Friday, when the media was informed.

Shell said a thin layer of oil was now covering an area of about 19 miles by 2.7 miles, which was moving west, although it was expected to disperse through wave action and not reach the shore.

Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland, said: “The leak has now been going on for a number of days, but Shell has only put out a statement once they have it all under control. Shell is keeping things very close to their chest. They have a clear picture of what is going on from the remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) they have sent down there, but the fact they have not released these pictures from the ROV or given more detail is not good for transparency.

“After the Gulf of Mexico disaster, BP came under a lot of pressure because of its lack of transparency – and greater transparency is what Shell should be focusing on here.”

RSPB Scotland director Stuart Housden also urged greater transparency from Shell and expressed concern at risks to wildlife. He said: “We need to know the type of oil, how much has been released, the local weather conditions and the readiness to deal with any problems – these data are vital for proper contingency planning. This area of the North Sea is full of young seabirds dispersing from breeding colonies from Shetland to the Aberdeenshire coast.”

Asked about the claims Shell was being secretive, a company spokesman in Aberdeen said it was providing updated information to relevant parties as appropriate.

Shell said on Friday it had stemmed the leak significantly and was taking further measures to isolate it.

It added on Saturday that the leak was under control.

Shell said: “The subsea well was shut in on Wednesday and the flowline on the seabed is now isolated and de-pressurised. Leakage of oil has been considerably reduced.”

Oil was still coming out of the pipeline yesterday, but the Shell spokesman said the rate continued to reduce.

The company said it had responded promptly to the incident.

First Minister Alex Salmond said he was satisfied by assurances the leak had been brought under control.

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