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Shell admits oil leak fix could take weeks

ENERGY giant Shell has made a full apology for its response to the North Sea oil spill and admitted it could take weeks to fix the leak. After days of criticism for keeping details of the spill from its Gannet Alpha platform secret, the oil company conceded it had made mistakes.


17 August 2011

By Jenny Fyall: Environment Correspondent

ENERGY giant Shell has made a full apology for its response to the North Sea oil spill and admitted it could take weeks to fix the leak. After days of criticism for keeping details of the spill from its Gannet Alpha platform secret, the oil company conceded it had made mistakes.

In an interview with The Scotsman, Steve Harris, head of external affairs and communications at Shell Upstream International Europe, confirmed a remaining leak was in a spot so difficult to access, 800ft below the waves, that it could take weeks to stop. He also revealed:

• A first seabird had been seen covered in oil. The breed is not known, but it was spotted flying from the spill area with oil on its wings.

• The pipe that sprung a leak is more than 30 years old and was not spotted by surveys testing the integrity of equipment.

• The size of the spill had grown again to cover 16sq miles. This compares to half a square mile on Monday, and 19 miles by three miles on Sunday. He said this could be because the spill had spread into smaller sections in windy conditions at the weekend, but with yesterday’s calmer weather had joined back together again.

• Shell failed initially to involve RSPB Scotland in its response to the leak, for which Mr Harris apologised.

Shell has faced fierce criticism from environmentalists and politicians that it was secretive and slow to admit details about the spill from the platform 112 miles east of Aberdeen, which started last Wednesday.

Mr Harris said: “Could we have done better? Obviously. But we have tried really hard to make sure the data we have put out is accurate. The motivation from us was absolutely not one of trying to cover it up. We knew that we had made a bad mistake and we would have to explain what had happened.

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