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Halt Shell projects in North Sea, says WWF

Extracts from “Halt Shell projects in North Sea…”:

Shell technical director Glen Cayley has apologised and admitted the existing pipeline inspection and maintenance programme had let the company down.

WWF Scotland also described Shell’s performance during the spill as a “lesson on how to look evasive and shifty”.

BY CATRIONA WEBSTER: 22 August 2011

A LEADING environmental charity has called on the UK Government to restrict all Shell operations in the North Sea until a full audit of its installations is carried out.

WWF Scotland made the plea after it was revealed that the UK Government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had censured the oil giant 25 times in six years for breaking safety rules.

It was also reported yesterday that an internal investigation by Shell eight years ago raised serious concerns about safety in the Gannet oil field, where the company has been fighting to stem the worst North Sea oil leak in over a decade.

Last night, however – as Shell defended its safety record – politicians warned that shutting down its UK operation would be an “overreaction”. More than 200 tonnes of oil leaked into the water from a flowline to the Gannet Alpha platform, 113miles east of Aberdeen.

Divers closed the leaking valve on Friday, more than a week after the spill was detected on August 10.

Shell technical director Glen Cayley has apologised and admitted the existing pipeline inspection and maintenance programme had let the company down.

WWF Scotland director Richard Dixon called yesterday for a proper independent audit to be carried out on Shell installations – and said work should be halted in the meantime.

“Revelations over Shell’s own concerns about the Gannet field and about a series of prosecutions and warning from the HSE show a company that is struggling to operate safely in the North Sea,” he said.

”We shouldn’t be going after oil in difficult and sensitive waters anywhere in the world, but if there is some drilling in such locations, Shell’s track record clearly shows that they are not fit to be part of that exploration.”

Last night, a Shell spokesman said the company had completed a huge investment programme in the wake of an audit carried out in 2003. He said: ”Safety is Shell’s foremost priority at all times. As part of that commitment, in 2004 Shell initiated a $I.2billion (£.T28million) project to upgrade our assets in the North Sea. This has been completed. This year alone, we plan to invest approximately $600million (£364million) on our assets in the region.”

Aberdeen North MP Frank Doran said: “These are serious issues and it is important that Shell’s performance in this area improves dramatically – but I think it would be an overreaction to close down all their operations.”

Gordon MP Malcolm Bruce said lessons needed to be learned from the spill but the suggestion that installations should be shut down was “overly drastic”.

He said: “Some people appear to think that the industry shouldn’t be there at all. While most of us recognise that it needs to be there, we also need to be sure that all the necessary inspection and monitoring systems are robust enough.”

Industry body Oil and Gas UK said restrictions on Shell would be unnecessary. “In the UK we have very stringent and robust health-and-safety and environmental regulation and regulators have been very effective,” a spokesman said.: Given the strength of that regulation, shutting down platforms is just not required.”

WWF Scotland also described Shell’s performance during the spill as a “lesson on how to look evasive and shifty”.

Environmental Secretary Richard Lochhead has called for a review of procedures to inform the public about spills in UK waters.

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said a through investigation would be carried out by the Department for Energy and Climate Change and the HSE, with a full report sent to the procurator fiscal if appropriate.

Yesterday, Shell said no oil had seeped out since divers closed the valve.

The company will now carry out continuous monitoring to ensure the operation has been fully successful.

It has set up an investigation team to establish the cause of the leak.

SOURCE ARTICLE

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