Environmentalists demand more answers from Shell after Scotland oil spill
Although Shell has apologized for the North Sea spill, which has yet to be contained, the oil company's belated release of information is still drawing criticism from environmentalists.
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Although the spill is regarded as "significant" by government authorities, a government advisory group said the risk to wildlife and the environment has been "minimal." Shell believes the released oil will be dispersed naturally. According to some reports, the remote location will keep the environmental impact low.Skip to next paragraph
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However, Shell admitted that at least one seabird had been spotted covered in oil, signaling the possibility that more could have come into contact with the spill and underscoring environmentalists' fears.
'A bad mistake'
Shell's belated explanation on Wednesday in the Scottish national newspaper The Scotsman included some honest assessments of the damage.
Steve Harris, head of external affairs and communications at Shell Upstream International Europe, told the paper: "Could we have done better? Obviously. But we have tried really hard to make sure the data we have put out is accurate. The motivation from us was absolutely not one of trying to cover it up. We knew that we had made a bad mistake and we would have to explain what had happened."
He revealed that the pipeline that was the source of the leak was 30 years old and had somehow been missed by inspectors who were surveying equipment. Mr. Harris admitted that the spill – photographed from the air by Marine Scotland, showing a noticeable sheen – had expanded to 16 square miles.
However, Harris refused to comment on how the leak occurred, saying that the investigation would look into the cause.
About 1,300 barrels spewed out before the leak could be stopped, and Shell admitted that there was a second leak at a valve 800 feet below the surface that is thought to be discharging about a barrel a day. Divers are working to shut it off.
Friends of the Earth Scotland Chief Executive Stan Blackley says that despite assurances from Shell that they are in "total control," the company appears to be struggling to get to the bottom of the spill.
"What does the ongoing North Sea oil spill say about Shell's plans to open up the Arctic, where an accident would be all but impossible to clean up? Especially now the existence of a suspected second leak at its Gannett Alpha platform has been revealed?" a posting on the group's blog asks.