Ocean Pollution

Oilfield leak declared in Dorset

On Sunday, around 200 barrels of reservoir fluid, including oil, leaked into Poole Harbour in Dorset. The council leader called the event 'unacceptable'. 

Written by Oceanographic Staff
Photographs by Ruedi Haberli & Austris Augusts

On Sunday, a Perenco-owned pipeline at an onshore oil field leaked around 200 barrels of  reservoir fluid, including oil, into Poole Harbour in Dorset, England. It is Europe’s largest natural harbour and around 5,000 acres of it are a classified Site of Special Scientific Interest as its mudflats and saltmarshes host various seabirds, including ospreys that are part of an osprey reintroduction programme. Poole Harbour is also a known bass nursery area.

The leak happened at Wytch Farm, an onshore oil field that generates around 14,000 barrels of oil per day. While 200 barrels of reservoir fluid were released, Perenco said that each of these contained 158 litres of fluid which were made up of 85% of water adn 15% of oil. Perenco said in a statement: “The exact amounts discharged are not yet known. It was a limited amount which was quickly stopped, contained and is being cleaned.” They further reported “no risk” of additional leakages, while they said that the pipeline was shut down and booms were put in place to minimise pollution.

“Poole Harbour is one of the largest natural harbours in the world – it’s a huge area so we have four separate teams combing the harbour to understand the extent of the spill at this stage and where it has come ashore,” Jim Stewart, of Poole Harbour Commissioners, told the BBC. A team of 60 people, helicopters and drones are currently on site to help determine the cause and extent of the spill. He added: “Some of that oil has already been captured during operations yesterday [Sunday]. It’s too early to say what caused the leak. We’ll be looking at how exactly it happened and get reassurance it doesn’t happen in future.”

Philip Broadhead, Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole Council leader, said: “When I first heard about this yesterday I was angry and disappointed. From what we are hearing it is a small leak of reservoir fluid which was caught fortunately quite quickly – they’ve stopped any further leaks, they’ve got booms up, so one hopes at the moment that we have avoided any real disaster here.”

He added: “The early indications are that the surface slick is already dispersing. You want it out to sea and dispersing as quickly as possible. It’s unacceptable – the operator has already said there will be an investigation… but some serious questions need to be answered.”

Members of the public are urged not to swim near the harbour until further notice, while those that came in contact with the fluid are advised to wash thoroughly with soap.

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Written by Oceanographic Staff
Photographs by Ruedi Haberli & Austris Augusts

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