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The British Department for Energy and Climate Change has recently released information confirming that out of the 4,123 separate oil spills that have been reported in the North Sea since 2000, only seven have actually resulted in fines for the offending company.
The seven fines between 2000 and 2011 came to a total of just £74,000. The largest fines of £20,000 were handed out to BP in 2002 for spilling 28,000 tonnes of diesel from its Forties Alpha platform, and to Total in 2003 for spilling six tonnes of diesel from its Alwyn North platform. As you can see the size of the spill seems to have little relation to the size of the fine, especially considering that the lowest fine was for £2,000, given to two companies, Venture North Sea Oil and Knutsen OAS Shipping, for spilling 20 tonnes of crude during a tanker transfer in 2007.
Vicky Wyatt, from Greenpeace, said that “ministers and oil companies can spout all the carefully crafted quotes they like to tell us how safe drilling at sea is. But while they're spouting these words, their rigs are all too often spouting oil into our oceans. The government should hit these companies who pollute the oceans in this way with meaningful fines. A few grand is not even a slap on the wrist for companies who pocket millions of pounds every hour. It's both staggering and wrong that some of these companies are now also drilling in the fragile and pristine Arctic, where a similar oil leak would be catastrophic.”
The following list was produced by the Guardian, and briefly details the seven spills that were fined in the North Sea since 2000.
Kerr McGee North Sea (UK) Ltd – 22 October 2000
Release of about 400 tones crude oil to sea from subsea pipeline: £10,000 fine. Pipeline between NW Hutton platform and Hutton TLP, northern North Sea.
BP Exploration Operating Company – 2 December 2002
Release of approximately 28 tonnes diesel to sea due to accidental draining of fuel to open drain system and sea sump: £20,000 fine. Forties Alpha platform, central North Sea.
Total E&P UK PLC – 17 June 2003
Release of about 6 tonnes diesel after diesel transfered from tanks via valve not identified as dump valve: £20,000 fine. Alwyn North, northern North Sea.
Shell UK Ltd – 12 May 2003
Release of 7.5 tonnes diesel to sea during bunkering operations – return path for diesel supply system found to be closed and plant condition not as expected: £7,000 fine. Comorant Alpha, northern North Sea.
Amoco (UK) Exploration Company – 1 July 2004
Release of 31 tonne diesel to sea from day tank during bunkering operations: £12,000 fine. Lomond, central North Sea.
Shell UK Ltd – 10 November 2004
Release of 7.33 tonnes oil-based mud to sea during bunkering operations. £3,000 fine. North Cormorant, northern North Sea.
Venture North Sea Oil Ltd and Knutsen OAS Shipping AS – 5 April 2007
Release of 20 tonnes crude oil to sea from SAL [single anchor loading] during transfer onto tanker. £2,000 fine each. Kittiwake, central North Sea.
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com
James Burgess studied Business Management at the University of Nottingham. He has worked in property development, chartered surveying, marketing, law, and accounts. He has also…