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U.K. Warns of Shell Oil Spill

AUGUST 15, 2011 10.29 A.M. ET

By ALEXIS FLYNN

LONDON—Several hundred tons of crude oil may have spilled into the North Sea as a result of an underwater pipeline leak on a Royal Dutch Shell PLC production platform, the U.K.’s Department of Energy and Climate Change said Monday.

“Current estimates are that the spill could be several hundred tons,” the department said in a statement, adding this was subject to ongoing revision due to the difficulty of assessing the spill.

An undersea pipe at the Gannet Alpha platform has been leaking oil into the ocean for days. Shell confirmed the leak Friday and said Saturday that a nearby well had been shut Wednesday.

The department said that while the spill was small in comparison to BP‘s Gulf of Mexico accident last year, it was “substantial” in the context of the U.K. continental shelf.

However, it said it expected the oil to disperse naturally and wouldn’t reach the shore.

“The U.K. continental shelf oil-spill record is strong, which is why it is disappointing that this spill has happened. We take any spill very seriously and we will be investigating the causes of the spill and learning any lessons from the response to it,” the department said.

Shell declined to comment when contacted and said it would be issuing a statement later Monday.

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