Oil giant BP has been fined £7,000 following an oil leak in the North Sea.
About 95 tonnes of oil was released into the sea 75 miles west of Shetland as BP prepared to start production from a newly drilled well on the Clair Phase 1 offshore installation.
An investigation by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy found a process failure resulted in the “significant amount” of oil leaking, which had the potential to cause “significant harm” to the environment.
The incident happened on October 2 2016, and today Sheriff Graeme Napier criticised the delay in the matter coming to court, branding it a “matter of concern”.
Representing BP, solicitor Katherine Metcalfe called in from Glasgow to lodge a guilty plea of contravening the Offshore Petroleum Activities (Oil Pollution Prevention and Control) Regulations 2005.
The court heard that BP had intended to start production from the platform, but because it was not a routine operation, a specific written procedure was prepared by bosses which was to be followed.
Regular water sampling should have been in place with results fed back to the control room, the investigation found, and written procedure was not specific on when results should be provided or when control should request late results.
As a result the crude oil was discharged into the North Sea.
The court heard that at about 10.15am on October 2, the platform was immediately shut down after it was noticed that the sea around it had gone dark.
Investigations revealed that 95 tonnes of oil had made its way into the sea. However, due to the weather conditions, there was no significant impact to the environment as the oil was taken out to the North Atlantic where it would have been dispersed over a few days.
Sheriff Napier said: “Taking all matters into account, including that the matter has been hanging over the company for an extended period of time it seems to me that the appropriate starting point for a penalty is £9,500.
“As I am required to do I will give credit for the early plea and reduce that fine to £7000 which will be payable within 28 days.”
Alistair Duncan, head of the Crown Office’s health and safety investigation unit said the lack of “robust procedures” could have had serious consequences.
He added: “The lack of sufficiently robust procedures could have had a significant environmental impact, had these issues not been addressed.
“”Thankfully there was no significant impact to the environment as a result of this incident and the company has introduced improved procedures since then.
“Hopefully this prosecution will serve as a reminder that failing to have sufficiently robust procedures and adhere to the regulations can have potentially serious consequences.”
A spokesman for BP said: “Safety is BP’s core value and our operations are grounded in the principles of no accidents, no harm to people and no damage to the environment.
“On this occasion in 2016, we regrettably fell short of these high standards. While there was no injury to people or significant impact on the environment, this incident should not have happened.
“In the period immediately after this incident, we carried out a thorough investigation and applied lessons learned. We remain as committed as ever to maintaining safe and reliable operations across our business.”