Shell Fails to Contain North Sea Spill - Oceana USA

Shell Fails to Contain North Sea Spill

In Wake of New North Sea Oil Spill, Oceana Urges More Scrutiny of Shell’s Arctic Spill Response Plan

Press Release Date: August 15, 2011

Location: Juneau, AK


Dustin Cranor, APR | email: | tel: 954.348.1314


August 15, 2011 – Oil continues to seep into the North Sea after a Royal Dutch Shell platform flow line in the seabed burst. An estimated 54,600 gallons of oil have leaked into the water, according to Thomson Reuters wire service. The spill, announced by the company on Friday, is in the central North Sea, about 112 miles east of Aberdeen, Scotland. This spill occurred just days after the United States’ Department of the Interior tentatively approved Shell’s request to drill four experimental wells in the U.S. Arctic’s Beaufort Sea in 2012. Oceana is appalled and concerned that this event in the North Sea is a foreshadowing of things to come in the U.S. Arctic. 

“The oil gushing in the North Sea is an urgent reminder why DOI needs to carefully examine Shell’s lack of ability to contain and clean up oil spills, said Susan Murray, Oceana Pacific Senior Director. Shell is claiming to be able to clean up 95 percent of a spill in the Arctic Ocean, but more than 300 square miles of sheen on the surface of the North Sea today put more than reasonable doubt on that assertion.”

Shell ’s claim that the company can recover 95 percent of any oil spilled in the Arctic relies on, using mechanical recovery tools in the water, which have failed during past drills.  Oil recovery rates for the Exxon Valdez were closer to 8 percent; and for Deepwater Horizon, were around 10 percent, with help from the Coast Guard. Meanwhile, Admiral Robert Papp of the Coast Guard stated earlier this month that for the Arctic ,the Coast Guard has “zero to operate with at present.”.

“This incident is just a snapshot of what could happen in Alaska’s Arctic. While this could be disastrous for the North Sea, it’s not even a worst case spill.” said Jacqueline Savitz, Oceana senior climate and energy campaign director. “A blowout like the one in the gulf would be impossible to clean up in the Arctic and could be the end of the story for critical marine animals,” Savitz added. 

Royal Dutch Shell reported a sheen of oil on the water’s surface about 20 miles long and 2.5 miles wide. A sheen this size would most certainly bring unprecedented harm to the Arctic ecosystem. Currently, there is no proven, effective method of cleaning up an oil spill under most Arctic conditions.  There are inadequate facilities and equipment in the region to carry out an effective response plan.  And there is a clear lack of basic scientific information about the Arctic ocean ecosystem.  The vibrancy and biodiversity of the Arctic ecosystem depend on how we manage economic development.  Oceana will continue to work towards ensuring that development will not harm ecosystem health or the traditional subsistence way of life.