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Environmental disaster averted as Shell plugs oil leak

Environmnental news - by GreenWise staff
23rd August 2011
An environmental disaster appears to have been averted after Royal Dutch Shell plugged a leaking valve at its North Sea platform that caused the worst oil spill in UK waters in more than a decade.
Shell has begun the process of securing pipeline to the seabed after confirming it has plugged the leak on an underwater pipeline at its Gannet Alpha platform. While averting a major environmental catastrophe on the scale of that caused by the Deepwater Horizon incident in Gulf of Mexico, last year, Shell and the Government said they were continuing to monitor the situation closely.

In a statement on Sunday, Shell said divers had plugged the leak two days earlier and "no oil has been released since that point", though it was carrying out "continuous monitoring" to ensure it had been closed successfully following a rupture almost two weeks ago.

Yesterday Shell received the greenlight by the Government to continue laying concrete mattresses on pipeline to protect it from the threat of storm or tidal damage following the closure of the valve.

"Following discussions over the weekend, last night I advised Shell that I am satisfied with its proposals to complete operations to secure with concrete mattresses sections of pipeline that are raised from the sea bed," said Mr Hugh Shaw, the Secretary of State’s Representative for Maritime Salvage and Intervention, appointed by the UK Government to oversee the operation.

Concerns over deep sea drilling
Last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil disaster caused an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil to leak into the sea. By comparison the Shell incident is thought to have leaked just 1,300 barrels of oil into the North Sea.

Nevertheless, despite averting a major catastrophe, the incident has renewed concerns over the safety of deep sea drilling and its impact on the environment. The oil industry is looking to drill in deeper, more hazardous waters off the British coast as it goes in search of depleting reserves of fossil fuel and some environmental groups are now calling on the Government to review its policy over North Sea drilling and switch to green energy.

"The only way to protect our environment, and secure affordable energy supplies for the future, is by developing green and safe alternatives to dirty fossil fuels," said Friends of the Earth head of Science , Policy and Research, Mike Childs.

Environmental threat
A report by oil industry watchdog PLATFORM earlier this year concluded that the Gulf of Mexico environmental disaster could be repeated in the North Sea despite the UK having one of the most robust safety and environmental regimes in the world. The Deepwater Horizon oil leak caused the worst environmental catastrophe in US history last year.

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Environmental disaster averted as Shell plugs oil leak
Shell has plugged the leak at its Gannet Alpha platform
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