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Shell stops North Sea oil leak

The worst North Sea oil leak in over a decade has been stopped after more than a week, it has been announced.

Oil company Shell said it has stopped the leak from a flowline to the Gannet Alpha platform in the North Sea.

More than 200 tonnes of oil have entered the North Sea from the pipe since the problem was first detected on August 10. The oil currently covers around four square miles of sea, and is 3.62 tonnes by volume, according to the latest estimates.

On Friday, Shell divers closed the relief valve from which oil had been seeping at a rate of less than one barrel a day. Now there will be a phase of monitoring the flowline to check that it remains sealed.

Glen Cayley, technical director of Shell's exploration and production activities in Europe, based in Aberdeen, said: "Closing the valve is a key step. It was a careful and complex operation conducted by skilled divers, with support from our technical teams onshore. But we will be watching the line closely over the next 24 hours and beyond.

"Our next task is to remove the residual oil from inside the depressurised flowline, and that will take time."

Meanwhile, 24 concrete mats have been laid to secure the flowline to the seabed. More will be put down in the coming days.

Shell has three vessels on site with dispersants and specialised oil spill response equipment if needed. The company has set up an investigation team to establish the cause of the leak.

A Shell spokeswoman said: "We will also co-operate with government authorities as they conduct their own investigations, including supplying them with pipeline integrity reports and other information.

"We are continuing to monitor the conditions of the sea which affect the dispersal of the oil, in conjunction with Marine Scotland, and to undertake surveys of bird and marine life by air surveillance and vessels in the area. These surveys, which include independent bird monitoring, have indicated no significant impact on the environment."

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