London reviews North Sea oil safety

Dec. 15, 2011 at 7:57 AM   |   0 comments

LONDON, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Energy companies and regulators in the North Sea should take a lessons-learned approach from last year's oil spill in the United States, a minister said.

A study of the worst oil spill in U.S. history -- the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill in the Gulf of Mexico -- found a series of on-site errors by energy companies and oversights by regulators ultimately led to the disaster.

British Energy Minister Charles Hendry, in commenting on an assessment of North Sea energy, said the Deepwater Horizon accident serves as a reminder of the risks associated with offshore energy development.

"It is vital for the future of North Sea development that our offshore regulatory regime remains at the forefront of the global industry," he said in a statement.

Oil leaked from Royal Dutch Shell's Gannet platform in the North Sea in August. The release totaled around 1,300 barrels of oil, making it the largest oil spill in the region in more than a decade.

Experts led by researchers at Imperial College, London, called for more "robust arrangements" regarding liability while at the same time advocating a more integrated approach to dealing with safety and environmental management of North Sea energy.

"We have found a great many positives in the U.K.'s safety and environmental regulation, in what is generally regarded as a world-leading regime, whilst identifying areas where there is still scope for further reducing the risks of incidents occurring," said Geoffrey Maitland, a scientist who led the study.

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