North Sea oil spill is Norway's second worst

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"Statfjord A" North Sea oil platform from which the spill was released.
Image: Marcusroos.

On Wednesday at 12:40 p.m. CET (UTC+1), Norwegian authorities were alerted to an oil spill in the Statfjord oil field. The spill originated from the oil platform "Statfjord A", one of three platforms in the field, operated by StatoilHydro.

Kristin Hoffmann of Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (Petroleumtilsynet) told Dagens Nyheter: "This is the second largest in Norwegian history." The amount of oil released into the sea is believed to be at least 3840 cubic metres, 25,000 barrels, or approximately 4,000 metric tons. This amount would rank the spill low on the list of oil spills.

"It is a significant amount and we are taking it seriously," said Vegar Stokset, a spokesman for StatoilHydro, though he said the spill was "very far from land."

The accident occurred in rough seas while tanker Navion Britannia was loading oil from a storage buoy, StatoilHydro said. Christian Sletner of the Norwegian Coastal Administration said, "StatoilHydro has a good preparedness plan, and a satisfactory system for handling this." He added, "StatoilHydro is responsible for cleaning up. This is the 'polluter pays' principle."

"The amount of damage could range from completely marginal to relatively large if substantial amounts reach land," Sletner said. "The chances of it reaching land, at the moment, seem to be relatively small."

No one was injured at the time of the accident and the platform will continue work as usual Thursday, said StatiolHydro Information Director Kai Nielsen. In a press release, StatiolHydro announced that four vessels are on their way to begin the clean-up, though they will have to wait for calmer seas to begin work.

Petroleum Safety Authority Norway said in a press release that it is demobilizing disaster teams and beginning to prepare for its investigation of the incident. It will also closely follow StatoilHydro's clean-up.

Statfjord is 200 km (124 miles) off the coast of Norway, located to the east of Bergen. It is an oil and gas field in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea, though approximately 15% of it is in the United Kingdom's waters. At peak production, it produces over 700,000 barrels of oil per day. The field is one of the largest known under-sea oil fields in the world.