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Shell North Sea ‘leak’ is in fact an uncontrolled blowout


Posted by John Donovan ([email protected])

Comment from an expert source that technically the Shell North Sea oil leak is an uncontrolled blowout. Fortunately on a much smaller scale that the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.


If the leak at Gannet is coming from the flowline between the well and the platform, it should be a very simple matter to shut it in – but after 5 days, the flow continues.

According to Shell’s news releases, the leaking flowline connects a subsea well to to the Gannet platform. A subsea well has a Christmas tree on the wellhead at the seabed to control flow from the well into the flowline, so if the leak is from the flowline it is a very simple matter to close in the line and depressurize it – and the leak would stop immediately.

As the flowline continues to leak, it appears that either the valves on the Christmas tree have failed or the leak is from another source, possibly the well itself. In either case, the correct term for Shell’s “leak” is a “blowout” – which is defined as uncontrolled flow of fluids from a well.


Only on a technicality that blowout is a term reserved for an uncontrolled release from a well during drilling operations.

For what its worth my slant would be yet again on how a Company which states openness, transparency, honesty and integrity as its business principles, acts like a secret society and when failure occurs hesitates not only to tell society as a whole, but its employees who are in many cases at risk

A Company with these intrinsic qualities which also is hypocritical enough to damn others for their mistakes suggesting that with its utopian standards such mistakes would not occur because you can be sure of Shell.

Its current CEO thinks its an acceptable operating strategy to be able to react to elevated risks immediately but not to prevent risks being elevated in the first instance

An example would be the facts obtained by UK press under FoI that Shell has more gas leaks than any other operator and in the years following Brent Bravo it had more prohibition and improvement notices issued than any other operator and after spending $1.6 billion since Brent Bravo, has still had its four major Brent installations shutdown for many months – corroded fenders etc

The most dramatic failure would be the repeated releases from Brent C which had a prohibition Notice imposed on it as early as 2009 but again after other failures, was shutdown on January this year with risks that the Regulator themselves have described as potentially catastrophic.  Perhaps in collusion with the non independent Regulator the 2009 Notice does not appear where it should appear in the public database, but can only be got by a search elsewhere ….. So Safety Cases and formal regulation does not reduce risks in the Shell North Sea operations so how will the risks be controlled in the US?

etc etc

You get the gist


I don’t believe it is a relief valve. If it is a relief valve then it has failed completely, doubtful. Tonights Scottish News showed a subsea  grating with relatively small amounts of leaking oil bubbling up from below.  I assume that this grating is covering some sort of manifold or wellhead. Oil is ether leaking from another corroded line or a failed joint or a combination, even a vent has been opened somewhere.  The Public do not have enough information to make any sort of credible judgement.  Perhaps Shell are also in the embarrassing position of not having enough information to make any valid statements?

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