Scottish Government minister says BP “extremely lucky” over North Sea oil spill

BP's Clair platform
BP's Clair platform

A Scottish Government minister has said it is “extremely lucky” that an oil spill to the west of Shetland has not caused more environmental damage.

An estimated 95tonnes of oil is reported to have leaked from BP’s Clair platform as a result of a “technical issue”.

The oil, which is thought to have begun leaking on Sunday morning, is now moving in a north-easterly direction.

Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham told MSPs that the direction of movement meant there was a “low risk to environmental sensibilities”.

She said: “It is understood that the oil came from the produced water system, rather than a leak from the well.

“Initial aerial surveillance and modelling show that the oil is moving north/north-east from the platform.

“This presents a low risk to environmental sensibilities such as sea birds and sea bed features and has informed Marine Scotland’s advice that the most appropriate response is to allow the oil to disperse naturally.”

Ms Cunningham said the platform had operated since 2005 without incident.

She added: “The issue of the impact on the sea bed is not a huge concern.

“What we have is a situation where the oil may sink to a depth of about 25metres, but the sea bed in this particular area is at 140metres, with the nearest Marine Protected Area some 20kms away in water depths of between 300 and 600 metres.

“The advice about the natural dispersal has been accepted.”

BP said yesterday it took an hour to stop the discharge.

The platform, 46 miles west of Shetland, was shut down and will stay offline until an investigation has been carried out.

Ms Cunnigham added: “My major concern is obviously the marine environment and I have been assured that this particular incident has minimal risk for the marine environment.

“It does not impact the sea bed. The product of the produced oil spill is crude oil mixed with sea water – it is not a straightforward oil leak and it was a single event, not a continuous leak.

“It is at the absolute minimum in terms of what may have happened – though I think we have been extremely lucky.”