August 17, 2011

2nd Leak Detected At Shell’s Gannet Alpha Platform

Royal Dutch Shell said on Tuesday that it was working to contain what it called a "second pathway" of leakage discovered in the flow line beneath the Gannet Alpha oil platform in the North Sea, about 113 miles east of Aberdeen, Scotland.

The company had been dealing with the release of an estimated 1,300 barrels "“ or about 218 tons -- of oil from an initial leak discovered last week near the platform.  Although that leak was stopped last Thursday, a smaller flow from the same source has now been detected. 

However, Shell said the overall leak rate is declining.

"The leak source remains the same. The initial release path was stopped, however, the oil found a second pathway to the sea," said Glen Cayley, technical director of Shell's exploration and production activities in Europe, during an interview with BBC News.

"Since then we have been working to find the source of the much smaller flow of hydrocarbons," he said.

"It had proved difficult to find because we are dealing with a complex subsea infrastructure and the position of the small leak is in an awkward place surrounded by marine growth.  So, it has taken our ROV inspections some time to establish exactly where the source is."

"We believe now that the flow is coming from a relief valve adjacent to the original leak and from the same source. Once we've confirmed this we will then develop a series of mitigation options to stop this leak.

"There is no new leak," he said.

Shell has been able to lessen the rate of the leak to less than one barrel a day -- down from about five barrels a day estimated yesterday, Cayley said.

However, "a change in wave and wind conditions and general visibility does mean that the sheen affects a wider area of approximately 26 square kilometers (10 square miles)" wrote Cayley in an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg.

"Personnel on the platform are safe and the platform continues to operate."

Shell said it does not expect oil to reach U.K. land.

Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead told Bloomberg Tuesday that the government of Scotland has called on Shell to be more "open and transparent" about the incident.

However, Cayley said the authorities were informed about the leak "immediately."

Shell, Europe's largest oil company, is moving forward with plans to begin oil and gas exploration in the Beaufort Sea near Alaska next year, after spending more than $3.5 billion on licenses in the area.


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