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Shell under criticism for largest oil spill off Scotland in more than a decade

August 15, 2011

CRUDE oil continued to seep from a Shell platform in the North Sea late Sunday as the Anglo-Dutch oil giant came under criticism for what has been described as the worst spill in Britain in more than a decade.

Shell was alerted to the leak from an undersea pipeline Wednesday after an oil sheen was spotted on the surface near the Gannet Alpha production platform, 180km east of Aberdeen, on the Scottish east coast.

The energy giant has since been criticized by environment groups for waiting until Friday to go public with the spill and for refusing to reveal details about the leak, The Scotsman reported.

“I have begun to get concerned about how difficult it is to get information out of Shell. I want to talk to them when this is all over and review the way it has been dealt with,” Director of RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) Scotland, Stuart Housden, said.

On Saturday, Shell issued a statement saying the situation was “under control,” adding that the “leakage of oil [had] been considerably reduced.”

However, RSPB Scotland, citing figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), said the leak was the worst the country had suffered in over ten years, and thousands of seabirds could be endangered.

“Even a leak of half a tonne [about half a ton] in the wrong place can kill hundreds, if not thousands, of birds,” Housden said.

The company has not said how much oil has leaked but a Shell source earlier told AFP that “at the very most a couple of hundred tonnes” of oil had spilled into the sea. DECC figures show that spills in recent years involved no more than half a tonne of oil.

Housden also slammed First Minister Alex Salmond – who had called the spill “very limited” – for downplaying the problem.

“The First Minister was coming out on Friday and Saturday saying it’s small.

“It is small compared to what we saw in the Gulf of Mexico, but it is the largest single leak that we’ve had for at least ten years from an offshore installation,” Housden said.

Salmond has denied not treating the incident seriously.

“Any leak is a serious matter, and we will support the thorough and robust investigation that will follow this incident,” a spokesman for the minister said.

Shell said Saturday the oil spill was not expected to reach Scotland’s shore.

“Our current expectation is it will be naturally dispersed through wave action and will not reach shore … Shell takes all spills seriously, regardless of size and we have responded promptly to this incident.”

The last massive oil spill in the UK occurred in 1993 when a Liberian-registered tanker ran aground off Shetland, leaking 85,000 tonnes of crude oil.



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