BP has shut one of its platforms near the Shetland Islands after an oil spill that is sure to attract further unwelcome attention to the UK firm’s environmental record.
The 95 tonne, 665 barrel spill was blamed on a “technical issue” at BP’s Clair platform on Sunday. Although the leak was limited in scale, it was halted within an hour of the problem arising. The timing could hardly have been worse for the group.
The release last week of Deepwater Horizon, a big budget Hollywood dramatisation of BP’s 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, has thrust the risks of offshore production and exploration back into the public eye.
The latest spill was nowhere near the 3m barrels released after the deadly blast on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, however the environmental group said it highlighted “the dangers posed on a daily basis by oil and gas operations off the coast of Scotland”.
BP said the oil “was released to the sea from the Clair platform as a result of a technical issue with the system designed to separate the mixed production fluids of water, oil and gas”.
The group added: “We are investigating the cause of the technical issue and the field will remain offline for the time being.”
“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.
“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.”
The Clair platform, located 75km west of the Shetlands, is on the frontier between the North Sea and the Atlantic. The area has some of the biggest remaining reserves of oil and gas in the UK, though deeper water and hostile weather means that it is more difficult and expensive to extract in comparison with shallower parts of the North Sea.