Figures report 69 chemical spills in North Sea in last three months

Up to 69 incidents were reported in the North Sea oilfields
Up to 69 incidents were reported in the North Sea oilfields
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THERE have been 69 reports of oil and chemical spills in the North Sea over the last three months, figures say.

The most recent one reported was the Total gas leak at the Elgin platform on 25 March, with its status described as “under review”. The table was published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Oil & Gas UK, which represents offshore companies, said the leaks were “relatively small” and many of the chemicals “benign”.

BP and Shell were among the companies listed, with BP reporting the highest number of incidents at 23.

Other companies included EnQuest, British Gas and Nexen.

The DECC published the details of all oil and chemical releases since January 1 on its website. Around half of the spills were chemicals and the other half were different types of oil, including crude oil and diesel.

The source of the spills included equipment failure, defects and leaks. The list shows “leaking hydraulic fitting”, “subsea hose failure” and “drain overflow” as some of the reasons.

Dr Richard Dixon, the director of WWF Scotland, said: “People will be shocked to learn that there have been so many spills in such a short time.

“Operating in the North Sea is tough but the companies involved should be ashamed of this catalogue of faulty valves, operator mistakes and broken hoses. The industry is always telling us that they are among the most tightly regulated anywhere in the world. You shudder to think what’s happening in less regulated places.

“Getting oil and gas from the North Sea is a dirty and polluting business that produces fuels which go on to change the climate. We urgently need a plan to move from offshore fossil fuels to offshore renewables, transferring jobs and creating new technologies here in Scotland.”

Mick Borwell, Oil & Gas UK’s environmental issues director, said: “After we recently made hydrocarbon release data more widely available, Oil & Gas UK welcomes the publication of this data by DECC.

“While the oil and gas industry makes a concerted effort to avoid oil and chemical spills, it should be noted that the quantities in question here are relatively small and unlikely to impact on the marine environment.

“It should also be stressed that many of the chemicals accidentally spilled are benign, and not harmful to marine life at the concentrations that would be found in the environment.

“Indeed, all chemicals used offshore are rigorously tested before use to ensure that harmful products are not used.”

He added: “The industry takes its obligations to the environment very seriously and is committed to continuing to work with the Government and environmental agencies to minimise the environmental footprint of operations.”