Shell Oil has acknowledged an oil leak from a pipeline serving the Gannet Alpha platform in the North Sea. As the leak arises on the line bringing oil back to the platform from the undersea well, news media in England and the European continent naturally raise the spectre of that measure of all oil spills, the BP Gulf Oil Spill disaster. One thing is already clear, though: this is no BP.Although a vessel with dispersant and oil spill equipment is on standby, Shell reports the leak is fully under control. The company continues to search for the exact location of the leak after an oil sheen was noticed in the area of the platform, about 180km (112 miles) off the east coast of Aberdeen. But the undersea well has been shut down, and the pipeline is being depressurized, which should ensure the leak is contained and cannot continue indefinitely as the BP oil leak did. Additionally, the well is only 95 meters (300 feet) under the surface of the water, in much shallower depths than the challenging gulf oil wellhead.
The Guardian quotes UK Green party leader Patrick Harvie reminding Shell that communication with the authorities and public is now crucial, "something BP failed to do during the Gulf of Mexico disaster last year."
The BBC references Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond's estimate of the seriousness of this new oil spill: "We should obviously put things into context. We are probably dealing with a leak here of 100 tonnes or so of oil, and if you take the Gulf of Mexico that was half a million tonnes."
The German daily Tagesspiegel questions the state of North Sea oil platforms in general, with a subtitle that suggests the "infrastructure of the North Sea oil industry apparently has become outdated and more fragile." In January, Shell shut down the Bravo platform after a piece fell off into the sea. All four platforms are or have just been shut down for critical repairs.
The oil field in the North Sea is co-owned by Shell and the US firm Exxon, known in Europe as Esso, and is operated by Shell.
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