North Sea leaks ‘reality check’ for British oil industry, says Greenpeace

Environmentalists say industry’s arctic safety case undermined by figures showing 55 pollution incidents in last month.

Britain’s offshore rigs and platforms have leaked oil or other chemicals into the North Sea on 55 occasions over the past month alone, challenging claims by the industry that it has a strong safety and environmental record.

Among the fields to have reported pollution discharges is Piper Alpha, the scene of the world’s worst offshore accident in terms of fatalities when it blew up, killing 167 workers, 25 years ago.

Facilities operated by Shell, BP and BG were all offenders, according to the latest petroleum operations notices (PON1s) reported to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

Greenpeace said the alarming statistics should act as a reality check for an industry that was trying to persuade the world it should be allowed to drill in the pristine waters of the Arctic.

“They’re trying to convince the world that they can operate safely in one of the world’s harshest environments, yet they can’t prevent this steady trickle of oil and other polluting chemicals leaking into the relatively safe waters of the North Sea,” said Greenpeace senior climate adviser Charlie Kronick. “This will do little to increase public trust in their ability to drill in the Arctic without damaging this incredibly beautiful and fragile corner of our planet.”

But the industry itself says the leaks often contain tiny amounts of relatively harmless substances and the reporting system is an example of a good regulation.

One of the worst offenders in the latest set of DECC figures is Shell, which on 3 June reported lubricant and other chemical discharges from its Brent Bravo and Brent Charlie platforms.

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