15th December 2017

Oil heads north from Clair platform spill

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An oil spill caused by a technical problem on the Clair platform 46 miles west of Shetland was said to be heading away from land earlier today.

According to BP around 95 tonnes of oil were spilt from the system that separates oil, water and gas, “owing to a technical issue”, before production was halted.

The spill happened around 10am on Monday and according to the oil company production was stopped within an hour of the leak being detected.

Three of the aircraft at Sumburgh on Monday which were pulled in to carry out reconnaissance trips over the affected area. Photo: Ronnie Robertson

Three of the aircraft at Sumburgh on Monday which were pulled in to carry out reconnaissance trips over the affected area. Photo: Ronnie Robertson

BP said on Monday: “Both direct observation from surveillance flights and oil spill modelling continue to show the oil moving in a northerly direction away from land.

“The most recent surveillance flight already indicates significant dispersal of the oil at the surface.”
Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said that she was closely monitoring the situation, “which I understand to be the result of the rig discharging ‘produced water’ containing a much larger than usual amount of oil.

“The oil residue is moving away from the shore and, as such, there is a low risk to bird species at this time of year. The nearby Faroe-Shetland Sponge Belt Marine Protected Area is home to deep-water sponges 400-600m below the sea surface.

“Marine Scotland have advised that allowing the oil to weather naturally is the least harmful option for this internationally important marine habitat.”

BP informed its staff of the leak after it had been reported by news media.

BP North Sea (UK & Norway) regional president Mark Thomas said in an email to staff: “We are now investigating the cause of the technical issue and the field will remain offline for the time being. Our main focus now is to minimise the impact of this incident on the environment.”

He adds: “It is never our intention for you to hear about such incidents through the media or other external channels and, in an ideal world, you should be informed by me or another member of the RLT. Clearly, on this occasion, the media became aware of the incident and we had to respond and we will continue to do so as our response to the incident progresses.”

He wrote that an incident management team and business support team were working with “colleagues from  Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).”

The “most appropriate” response was to allow the oil to disperse “naturally at sea” while continuing to monitor the situation.

Mr Thomas added: “Oil has been observed on the sea surface and we are monitoring its movement. Both direct observation and oil spill modelling indicate the oil to be moving in a northerly direction away from land.

“We are still trying to accurately determine the total volume of oil in water.”

A number of surveillance aircraft were operating from Sumburgh to check the progress of the oil slick.

About Peter Johnson

Reporter for The Shetland Times. I have also worked as an employed and freelance reporter and editor for a variety of print and broadcast media outlets and as as a freelance photographer and film maker/cameraman. In addition to journalism, I have experience in construction, oil analysis, aquaculture, fisheries, the health service and oral history.

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