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Royal Dutch Shell closes oil valve after 12 day North Sea battle

Royal Dutch Shell has finally managed to stop oil from spilling into the North Sea after a 12-day battle with the Gannet field leak.

Shell’s work is not over as it will have to remove oil trapped in the pipeline between the sealed off well and the platform. The Marine Coastguard’s latest estimate is that the sheen currently covers an area of 6.7 square kms and 26 barrels by volume. Photo: REUTERS

By , Energy Correspondent 6:41PM BST 19 Aug 2011

Divers switched off a valve from which just one barrel per day was trickling over the last couple of days, but in total around 1,600 barrels has made its way into the ocean over the course of the spill.

Shell’s work is not over as it will have to remove oil trapped in the pipeline between the sealed off well and the platform. The Marine Coastguard’s latest estimate is that the sheen currently covers an area of 6.7 square kms and 26 barrels by volume.

“Closing the valve is a key step,” said Glen Cayley, technical director of Shell in Europe. “ It was a careful and complex operation conducted by skilled divers, with support from our technical teams onshore. But we will be watching the line closely over the next 24 hours and beyond.”

Hugh Shaw, the Government’s representative for maritime salvage and intervention, said he would closely monitor the progress of the operation.

“Shell informed me at 10.58 this morning that both valves have been closed by divers, though I must be clear that this is not the end of this particular phase of the operation as there will now be a period of extensive monitoring to determine whether the operation has been successful and whether the leak has been stemmed,” he said. “This will be done through subsea surveillance as well as by aerial surveillance by Government aircraft.”

Environmental campaigners have seized on the incident as a sign that oil companies should not be trusted to drill in even more difficult weather conditions like the Arctic.

Vicky Wyatt, of Greenpeace, said: “While we’ll be keeping a careful eye on whether the leak really is plugged as Shell claims, it’s obvious that the more we learn about what is supposed to be a gold standard operation, the more you worry whether Shell can be trusted to drill in the remote and fragile Arctic.”

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