Shell UK sentenced over major oil release

Oil and gas production company Shell U.K. Limited, has been sentenced after admitting failures that led to an oil leak in the North Sea.

On 10 August 2011 a quantity of oil was spotted on the sea surface in the vicinity of Shell’s Gannet F field, 180 kilometres from Aberdeen. The initial reported surface area of oil as identified by the stand-by vessel was approximately 4.5 kilometres in length and 100 metres in width.

The oil release was subsequently observed to be emanating from a subsea relief valve attached to the Gannet F pipeline bundle in the vicinity of the Gannet F towhead protection structure.

The oil release was secured on 19 August 2011 when the relief valves were manually isolated and closed by divers. Shell subsequently estimated to the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) that a total of 218 tonnes of oil was released to sea during the incident.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and DECC carried out a joint investigation into the incident which concluded that the 8” Gannet F oil production pipeline within the pipeline bundle had failed. As a result, crude oil entered the insulated area between the production pipeline and its sleeve and was ultimately released to sea through the relief valves. It concluded there was no significant environmental impact or any risk that anyone would be harmed.

HSE served two Improvement Notices (INs) relating to processes during the investigation following the pipeline failure, which Shell subsequently complied with.

Shell UK Limited admitted breaching the Regulation 3A of the Offshore Petroleum Activities (Oil Pollution Prevention Control) Regulations 2005 and Regulation 13 of the Pipelines Safety Regulations 1996 and was fined a total of £22,500 at Aberdeen Sheriff Court.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. 
  2. The DECC Offshore Oil and Gas Environment and Decommissioning branch is the environmental regulator for the offshore oil and gas industry issuing relevant environmental permits, consents and authorisations. DECC works in conjunction with other pertinent Regulatory Bodies to investigate the circumstances of environmental incidents associated with offshore oil and gas operations.
  3. In Scotland, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has sole responsibility for the raising of criminal proceedings for breaches of health and safety legislation
  4. More about the legislation referred to in this case can be found at:
  5. HSE news releases are available at



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