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North Sea gas leak ‘could have caused explosion’ says safety watchdog

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By Chris Foote: 2 November 2015

Oil giant Shell has been ordered to make improvements following an undersea gas leak which could have caused an offshore explosion.

The leak happened when a ship’s towline snagged on a pipeline nearly 300ft below the Curlew floating production vessel.

The pipe ruptured and gas from the Fulmar Gas Line leaked out into the sea 130 miles south east of Aberdeen.

Shell planned to evacuate the Curlew’s 91 crew after the leak on January 19 but stormy weather prevented the operation.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reported: “The towline […] snagged the gas export pipeline’s subsea isolation valve skid and applied increased tension […] until the pipeline ruptured and released its inventory of gas to the sea surface, exposing employees and others to a risk of fire or explosion.”

The HSE served Shell with an improvement notice and the oil firm is now taking action to address its recommendations.

A Shell spokesman said: “Shell received an improvement notice in relation to our management of change process for marine operations at our Curlew vessel.

“The notice refers to a gas release incident which occurred from infrastructure in the vicinity of the Curlew.

“Action is being taken to address the issues raised in the notice. The relevant authorities were informed of the incident and the matter remains under HSE investigation.”


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