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Oil spill exposes Shell’s ticking timebomb

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The Gannet Alpha spill in the North Sea is a stark reminder of the dangers of ageing rigs and oil company PR

The Royal Dutch Shell platform Gannett Alpha in the North Sea. Photograph: Ho/Reuters

For Shell, the timing of a spill at its Gannet A facility in the UK North Sea couldn’t have been worse. For months, it has been selling its reputation as a responsible and cutting-edge oil company in its bid to drill in the Beaufort Sea in the US Arctic – and it recently won approval.

The Gannet Alpha platform spill and a damning report by the UN, undermining Shell’s PR strategy. The company has been castigated over its lack of transparency in reporting the leak and for downplaying its magnitude and potential impacts. We now know that the spill is the single largest in UK waters in the last 10 years. While the spill is unlikely to approach the devastating impacts of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, its significance lies in the fact that it took place under the much vaunted “gold standard” regulatory regime of the UK and by a company that has been trading on its reputation as a responsible corporate citizen. read more

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