According to the Associated Press, the spill occurred at the Gannet Alpha oil rig. The rig is operated by Shell and co-owned by both Shell and Esso, a subsidiary of the United States oil firm Exxon Mobil.
The technical director of Shell’s European exploration and production activities, Glen Cayley, called the spill “significant.” However, Cayley believes it is unlikely that the spill will reach shore.
The British government backs Shell’s predictions that the oil will not spread to land. In a weekend statement Shell admitted the spill covered an area 19 miles wide by 2.7 miles long.
Unfortunately these leaks are becoming regular news. In fact, the United Kingdom Department of Energy and Climate Change estimated that in 2009, around 51 metric tons of oil were released into the sea. However, the current Shell spill accounts for about four times that amount–216 metric tons.
According to Fox News, many environmental groups such as Greenpeace and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) have complained about the lack of information provided regarding the leak at the Shell location. Stuart Housden, director of RSPB Scotland said in an emailed statement to Reuters, “Currently thousands of young razorbills, puffins, and guillemots are flightless and dispersing widely in the North Sea during late summer. So they could be at serious risk if contaminated by this spill.”
Shell is said to release more information regarding the full extent of this spill later today.