NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

More details needed on oil incidents, says government

Gannet Alpha platform. Picture by Terry Cavner
Image caption The incident happened at the Gannet Alpha platform in the North Sea

The public must have better information on oil incidents in UK waters, the Scottish government has said.

The plea came in the wake of the oil leak near the Gannet Alpha platform, in the North Sea.

Shell initially faced criticism that it was not being open enough about the incident, which happened last week.

Oil industry regulation is reserved to Westminster, but Scottish ministers have asked the UK government to hold a review on the issue.

Shell has been dealing with the release of what is estimated to be 218 tonnes of oil after a leak from a relief valve near the platform, 113 miles (180km) off Aberdeen.

Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said issues of disclosure had raised serious questions about how information was given to the public in such circumstances.

Mr Lochhead, who has asked UK Energy Secretary Chris Huhne to look into the matter, said: "The oil and gas industry is vitally important and with so much activity and infrastructure in our seas there is always a risk of incidents.

"Not only should every effort be taken to minimise these risks, but when incidents do happen openness and transparency must be the guiding principles.

"More steps need to be taken to promote a culture of openness and transparency, especially when we are dealing with Scotland's rich and unique marine environment."

The minister added: "There may be obligations on platform operators to inform the UK government of incidents but it is difficult to identify any obligation to make details available to the public, or to be proactive about this process.

"In this day and age the public expect more, and, if the industry and relevant authorities don't respond to concerns, public confidence will be undermined."

Valve closed

Environmental pressure group Greenpeace had expressed concern about a lack of information coming from Shell when the incident happened.

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

The company said it would also co-operate with government authorities and regulators as it conducts its own investigations, including supplying them with pipeline integrity reports and other information.

Shell said the leaking valve was closed on Friday and, so far, the operation to stop oil being released into the sea had been successful.

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