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Shell spills over 50,000 gallons of oil off Scotland

Yesterday, Royal Dutch Shell estimated that to date 54,600 gallons of oil had spilled into the North Sea off the east coast of Scotland, spreading some 19 miles wide (30 kilometers) at its maximum. While the company stopped the initial leak on Thursday, it has now announced that the oil has found a ‘second pathway’ and is still leaking into the sea around 84 gallons a day.

Glen Cayley, technical director of Shell’s exploration and production activities in Europe, told the BBC that it would not yet discuss the cause of the oil spill, but it will be subject to an independent investigation. He added that the company ‘deeply regrets this spill’.

The spill comes from Shell’s Gannet Alpha oil platform, which is 113 miles (180 kilometers) off of Aberdeen, Scotland.

The Scotland director for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Stuart Housden, told The Scotsman, that the spill potentially threatens thousands of sea birds and, according to data, was the worst in the region for over ten years.

The company has been criticized for not making the leak public until two days after they noticed the spill.

Shell was recently granted preliminary permission by the Obama Administration to open exploratory wells in the US Arctic, just north of the western edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in the Beaufort Sea. The approval—widely condemned by environmental groups—is pending Shell’s oil spill response. Shell has stated that it has ‘the best oil-spill response plan anywhere in the world’, claiming it can recover 90 percent of the oil in a hypothetical spill in the Arctic.

However, the US Coast Guard has warne there is no infrastructure or support to deal with an oil spill in that region.

“If this were to happen off the North Slope of Alaska, we’d have nothing,” said Papp, as reported by Platts. “We’re starting from ground zero today.”

Shell also recently admitted to two massive oil spills in Nigeria in 2008 totaling 11 million gallons of crude. A thorough report from United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) found widespread pollution devastating Nigerian people and ecosystems.

Meanwhile, oil consumption hit a new all-time high in 2010 according to the Worldwatch Institute. Oil consumption rose 3.1 percent in 2010 after dropping in 2008 and 2009 due to the global recession. Over eighty-seven million barrels were consumed every day last year. Burning fossil fuels, such as oil, is one of the main contributors to the greenhouse gas emissions driving global climate change.

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