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Shell Oil Spill: 1,300 Barrels of Oil in North Sea

A leaking pipeline at a Royal Dutch Shell PLC platform has dumped an estimated 1,300 barrels of oil into the North Sea, a Shell official said Monday.

The undersea pipe at the Gannet Alpha platform started to leak on Wednesday and according to the company, the current rate of leaking is less than five barrels a day.

The British Department of Energy and Climate Change said that the oil flow leaking from the North Sea Platform east of Aberdeen, Scotland has “greatly reduced” and the oil should not reach land.

Glen Cayley, technical director of Shell’s exploration and production activities in Europe, said that over the weekend, the high winds and waves dispersed a lot of the visible surface sheen surrounding the leak.

“We continue to expect that the oil will disperse naturally due to wave action and that it will not reach the shore,” he said in a statement.

The UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change said that although the leak was small compared to BP’s Gulf of Mexico fiasco last year, it was “substantial” for the region.

“This spill is a significant spill in the context of annual amounts of oil spilled in the North Sea. We care about the environment and we regret that the spill happened. We have taken it very seriously and responded promptly to it,” Cayley said.

The company said an estimated 19 miles by 2.5 miles at its widest point of sea surface was affected. The sheen, currently moving west from the field, is about 500 meters in size.

Richard Lochhead, Scottish Environment Secretary, said that government officials will continue to monitor the leaking pipe, which is situated about 110 miles east of Aberdeen.

Lochhead said in a statement, "As is standard practice in incidents such as this, the UK government, which has responsibility for the pipeline system, will be taking forward an investigation and I will be pressing for the Scottish government to have a full and formal role, given our responsibilities for the marine environment."

The Wall Street Journal wrote, that the Health and Safety Executive reported the platform had 10 occurrences of leaking pipes in 2009 and 2010. Only one of the incidents was recorded as “significant” – the rest were considered to be “minor.”

According to written statement released by Shell, the spill is a light crude oil with low wax content. Also, some hydraulic fluid is present, the company wrote.

Esso, a subsidiary of US oil firm Exxon co-owns the field, but it is operated by Shell.

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