Royal Dutch Shell has defended its safety record following a leak of more than 200 tonnes of oil into the North Sea.
Environmental groups are calling for its North Sea operations to be restricted.
Shell said in a statement that "safety is Shell’s foremost priority at all times. As part of that commitment, in 2004 Shell initiated a $1.2 billion (£728 million) project to upgrade our assets in the North Sea. This has been completed.
"This year alone, we plan to invest approximately $600 million (£363 million) in our assets in the region. The 2003 audit, eight years ago, was one of the things that led to the huge investment programme."
On Monday, August 22nd, the Department of Energy and Climate Change, which monitors Shell’s North Sea oil and natural gas extractions, confirmed that the leaking valve had been shut. The situation is being monitored by the UK government’s aerial surveillance.
Mr Shaw, the Secretary of State’s Representative for Maritime Salvage and Intervention, who has been appointed by the government to oversee the operation, said in a statement: “Following the successful closure of the valve by Shell UK on Friday, Shell now plan to continue to secure the pipeline to protect it from the threat of storm or tidal damage. Following discussions over the weekend, last night I advised Shell that I am satisfied with their proposals to complete operations to secure with concrete mattresses sections of pipeline that are raised from the sea bed."
Dr Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland said in a statement: "Revelations over Shell’s own concerns about the Gannet field and about a series of prosecutions and warning from the Health and Safety Executive show a company that is struggling to operate safely in the North Sea.
The UK government needs to restrict Shell’s operations in the North Sea until a proper independent audit has been carried out on their installations. We also need to be reassured about the state of other companies’ ageing equipment in the North Sea if we are to avoid a repeat of the Gannet Alpha spill.
"We shouldn’t be going after oil in difficult and sensitive waters anywhere in the world, but if there is some drilling in such locations, Shell’s track record clearly shows that they are not fit to be part of that exploration."
The oil leak was first detected on August 10th. On Friday, Shell divers closed the relief valve from which oil had been seeping. According to Shell, no oil has been released since that point. Surveillance by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency is ongoing.
The Gannet oil field was first discovered in 1973. It lies in the North Sea 180 km east of Aberdeen. It consists of six separate oil and gas reservoirs under 95 metres of water and between 1,737 m and 2,227 m into the Earth.
The field is currently exploited by Shell and is jointly owned by Shell and Esso.
The six reservoirs are connected to a centrally placed production platform that processes all the oil and gas from the reservoirs. The leak occurred at a location connected to the platform by 11 km of pipes.