The energy department has published details of all the oil and chemical releases off the UK coast reported to it since January, and will do so every month from now on
According to information published on DECC’s website, there have been 70 significant oil or chemical offshore spills so far this year, with 28 remaining under investigation by the department.
In a reaction to the ongoing gas leak at Total’s Elgin platform in the North Sea, energy minister Charles Hendry announced that DECC would now publicise the details of every incident reported to it in a Petroleum Operations Notice No. 1 (PON1).
PON1 forms are used by firms operating offshore gas and oil installations to report any release of chemicals or oil that has caused, or may cause, significant pollution. Previously, PON1 data was released just once a year by DECC’s advisory committee on the protection of the sea, but under the new process a full list of releases has been published and will be updated every month.
The list discloses the location and type of spill, the company held to be responsible for the incident and whether a DECC inspector has been satisfied that the information provided in the PON1 is correct.
The spills are listed as either “closed” or as remaining “under review” by an inspector. Once an incident is closed, the DECC spreadsheet is updated with more information including the amount of chemicals or oil released into the sea and the source of spill.
So far this year, the biggest spill recorded was from a mobile installation run by Maersk Oil, which leaked up to 0.1 tonnes of oils while pressure testing a blowout preventer valve.
Other incidents include 70kg of crude oil released by the BP Exploration Operating Company when fitting a production flowline at an installation in the Mungo oil field, and 85kg of hydraulic fluid released from a safety valve at Total’s Elgin platform.
In announcing the quicker publication of PON1 data, Hendry said the Elgin leak had highlighted the importance of dealing with such polluting spills as transparently as possible by DECC.
He also announced the creation of a new government group to encourage the interchange of information between the different regulators involved including the Health and Safety Executive the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Marine Scotland and DECC.