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North Sea oil spill heading away from land, BP says

Published 03/10/2016

BP believes that allowing the oil to disperse naturally at sea is the best way to deal with the spill
BP believes that allowing the oil to disperse naturally at sea is the best way to deal with the spill

An oil spill from a North Sea platform is heading away from land, according to BP.

Its Clair platform was shut down on Sunday following the leak.

BP has not yet revealed how much fuel has escaped from the structure, which is 75km (46 miles) west of Shetland.

It has, however, confirmed oil is visible on the surface of the water and appears to be moving north.

The firm currently believes that allowing the oil to disperse naturally at sea is the best way to deal with the spill, although other options have not been ruled out.

In a statement, BP said: "The release was stopped within an hour once the issue had been identified and Clair production was taken offline.

"We are investigating the cause of the technical issue and the field will remain offline for the time being."

Oil spill and environmental experts from BP, Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) are said to have been working to assess any potential impact of the spill on the environment.

"At present, we believe the most appropriate response is to allow the oil to disperse naturally at sea, but contingencies for other action are being prepared," the statement went on.

"Oil has been observed on the sea surface and we are monitoring its movement. Both direct observation and oil spill modelling indicate the oil to be moving in a northerly direction away from land."

A spokesman said the volume of oil released has not yet been accurately assessed and work to determine the quantity is being carried out.

Scotland's Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said allowing the oil to disperse naturally is the method least likely to cause harm to an important marine habitat nearby.

She added: "The oil residue, about 55km off the coast of Shetland, is moving away from the shore and, as such, there is a low risk to bird species at this time of year.

"The nearby Faroe-Shetland sponge belt marine protected area is home to deep-water sponges 400-600 metres below the sea surface.

"Marine Scotland have advised that allowing the oil to weather naturally is the least harmful option for this internationally important marine habitat.

Ms Cunningham said she is closely monitoring the situation, which she understands to be the result of "the rig discharging 'produced water' containing a much larger than usual amount of oil".

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: "It's disappointing BP have been unable to provide an estimate of the amount of oil spilled yet feel able to say they are happy to leave it to disperse naturally.

"In the interests of protecting their staff and the marine environment, serious questions need asked about how this spill occurred. Until those questions are answered the platform should remain out of operation."

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