Updated: Forties pipeline crack ‘stabilised’, Ineos declares force majeure on North Sea oil

The site where the Forties pipeline was discovered to be damaged.
The site where the Forties pipeline was discovered to be damaged.

Petrochemicals giant Ineos said this morning that the small crack which shut down the Forties crude pipeline has stopped widening.

Ineos has reduced the size of the safety cordon at the site where the leak was detected — at Netherley, near Aberdeen — to 150metres from 300metres.

It means four residencies are now no longer within the cordon. One family which decided to relocate to temporary accommodation has now returned home.

The Netherley to Cookney road remains closed, however.

Ineos also confirmed that it has declared force majeure on “relevant contracts”.

Force majeure suspends a company’s contractual obligations in situations beyond its control.

The 235-mile pipeline system links more than 80 North Sea field to the UK mainland and the Ineos site in Grangemouth, delivering almost 40% of the UK’s North Sea production.

The petrochemicals giant said late last week that it had lowered the pressure in the pipeline after identifying the hairline fracture, but did not have to shut it down.

On Monday Ineos said the crack had got bigger, forcing it into a controlled shutdown.

A host of majors have been forced to shut down production from oil fields while repairs are carried.

In an update, Ineos said that, as of Tuesday, the small hairline crack has “stabilised” and “no further growth” has been seen.

The company, which bought Forties from BP for up to £190million at the end of October, is still deciding how to fix the crack.

A spokesman for Ineos said: “A number of repair options are currently being considered and progressed.

“At this stage, it is still too early to say how quickly the repair will take at this point but it is expected to be a matter of weeks rather than days.”