• Are North Sea Oil Spills Becoming More Common?

Analytical Instrumentation

Are North Sea Oil Spills Becoming More Common?

Nov 22 2020

Concerning new data from Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) suggests offshore oil and gas leaks in the North Sea have increased by almost 25% since last year. The figures were published by the industry body and come after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued a warning concerning rising hydrocarbon releases in the region.

In 2018 the total number of hydrocarbon releases recorded was 101. In 2019 this figure rose to 125. While the number of “major” releases dropped by 50% from six to three, the total number is up which suggests contamination in the North Sea remains a pressing issue.

The HSE also noted that while some releases were classed as minor, many came "perilously close to disaster". In 2019 the biggest reported gas release occurred on the Lancelot platform operated by Anglo-French oil and gas company, Perenco. The leak saw more than 26,500kg of gas released into a southern zone of the North Sea.

Maintaining safe operations a “key goal”

In light of the new data, OGUK health, safety and environment director Trevor Stapleton says the industry must take a “serious” approach to hydrocarbon release. “The UK offshore oil and gas industry's work to improve safety performance is delivering in many areas - but we must continue our relentless focus on safe operations in every aspect.”

He adds that while the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on North Sea oil and gas production, it should not distract the industry from reassessing its environmental procedures and taking steps to reduce spills. “However, this virus should not, and will not, distract industry from focusing on its key goal of maintaining safe operations while continuing to provide the energy society needs - however challenging that might be."

Green energy “not ready” to step up

Environmentalists say the issue needs to be addressed urgently to protect the North Sea and its unique marine ecosystem. In Norway, grassroots environmental organisation Nature and Youth is advocating for the phase out of oil and gas drilling in Norwegian waters.

At the other end of the spectrum are oil advocated like Hilde-Marit Rysst, a former rig technician and leader of an offshore labour union. Rysst says green energy is “not ready” to replace fossil fuels and says that while protecting the planet is important, phasing out oil and gas requires a “step by step” approach. "Young people are eager and impatient," she says. “For a long time to come, renewable energy will go hand in hand with fossil fuels."

Want to know more about the road to decarbonisation? Don’t miss ‘Process Trace Moisture Analyzer for Hydrogen Metering and Gas Grid Infeed Plants’ which explores the conversion of electric power from renewable sources to hydrogen.


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