Oil spill significant, admits Shell
More than 200 tonnes of oil could have entered the North Sea following a leak at an offshore platform, according to estimates from operator Shell.
The spill - the worst in the region for more than a decade - began at the Gannet Alpha platform 112 miles east of Aberdeen on Wednesday.
Estimates have only now been released by the firm, prompting complaints from environmental groups that there has been a lack of transparency.
Shell said about 216 tonnes of oil, equal to 1,300 barrels, may have spilled into the sea so far.
The estimate outstrips annual spill totals for the past decade, according to figures from the UK Government Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
The total amount of oil discharged into the North Sea in 2009 was 50.93 tonnes.
In a statement, Glen Cayley, technical director of Shell's exploration and production activities in Europe, said: "This is a significant spill in the context of annual amounts of oil spilled in the North Sea.
"We care about the environment and we regret that the spill happened. We have taken it very seriously and responded promptly to it."
Mr Cayley, speaking from Aberdeen, added: "The high winds and waves over the weekend have led to a substantial reduction in the size of the oil sheen as can be seen from the current levels on the water.
"We continue to expect that the oil sheen will disperse due to wave action and that it will not reach the shore."