Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

More openness urged over oil leaks

More than 200 tonnes of oil spilled into the water after a leak from a flowline to Shell's Gannet Alpha platform

Environment secretary Richard Lochhead has called for more "openness and transparency" about oil leaks in UK waters.

Mr Lochhead called for a review of procedures to inform the public about spills in light of the latest North Sea incident.

More than 200 tonnes of oil spilled into the water after a leak from a flowline to Shell's Gannet Alpha platform, about 112 miles east of Aberdeen.

Divers closed the leaking valve on Friday, more than a week after the spill was detected on August 10.

Mr Lochhead has written to UK Energy Secretary Chris Huhne and requested a meeting to discuss the issue of public disclosure, as regulation of the oil industry is a matter reserved to Westminster.

He said: "The oil and gas industry is vitally important and with so much activity and infrastructure in our seas there is always a risk of incidents. Not only should every effort be taken to minimise these risks, but when incidents do happen openness and transparency must be the guiding principles.

"Out at sea and therefore out of sight, does not mean out of mind. More steps need to be taken to promote a culture of openness and transparency especially when we are dealing with Scotland's rich and unique marine environment."

He called for a "more rigorous, transparent and timely system" for informing the public about any significant incident involving offshore oil and gas installations.

Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore said a thorough investigation will be carried out by the Department for Energy and Climate Change and the Health and Safety Executive and that, if appropriate, a full report on the Gannet Alpha leak will be sent to the procurator fiscal.

Shell has set up an investigation team to establish the cause of the leak. The company said it will also co-operate with government authorities and regulators as they conduct their own investigations, including supplying them with pipeline integrity reports and other information.

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