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69 spills reported in North Sea

There have been 69 reported incidents of oil and chemical spills in the North Sea during the last three months, figures have revealed.

A total of 18 companies have been named in the table of incidents published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). The most recent one reported was the Total gas leak at the Elgin platform on March 25, with its status described as "under review".

Oil & Gas UK, which represents offshore companies, said the leaks were "relatively small" and many of the chemicals "benign". BP and Shell were among the companies listed, with BP reporting the highest number of incidents at 23. Other companies included EnQuest, British Gas and Nexen.

The DECC published the details of all oil and chemical releases since January 1 on its website. Around half of the spills were chemicals and the other half were different types of oil, including crude oil and diesel.

Dr Richard Dixon, the director of WWF Scotland, said: "People will be shocked to learn that there have been so many spills in such a short time.

"Operating in the North Sea is tough but the companies involved should be ashamed of this catalogue of faulty valves, operator mistakes and broken hoses. The industry is always telling us that they are among the most tightly regulated anywhere in the world. You shudder to think what's happening in less regulated places.

"Getting oil and gas from the North Sea is a dirty and polluting business that produces fuels which go on to change the climate. We urgently need a plan to move from offshore fossil fuels to offshore renewables, transferring jobs and creating new technologies here in Scotland."

Mick Borwell, Oil & Gas UK's environmental issues director, said: "After we recently made hydrocarbon release data more widely available, Oil & Gas UK welcomes the publication of this data by DECC. While the oil and gas industry makes a concerted effort to avoid oil and chemical spills, it should be noted that the quantities in question here are relatively small and unlikely to impact on the marine environment."

He added: "The industry takes its obligations to the environment very seriously and is committed to continuing to work with the Government and environmental agencies to minimise the environmental footprint of operations."

The Government figures show there were 284 oil releases reported throughout 2011 and the number of chemical reports was 242. This was an increase on the previous year's figure of 271 oil reports and 175 chemical reports.


From Belfast Telegraph