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Marathon Oil fined over £1 million for North Sea gas release

21 May 2019

An oil firm has been fined £1.16 million - one of the biggest ever fines in a case of its type - over a gas leak in the UK sector of the North Sea. The incident happened on Marathon Oil's Brae Alpha platform, 155 miles north east of Aberdeen, on December 26, 2015. No-one was injured in the incident.

Brae Alpha - Image: Marathon
Brae Alpha - Image: Marathon

Pipework ruptured, allowing more than two tonnes of high-pressure methane gas to be released, causing what was described as significant damage.

In a case brought by the UK Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and heard at Aberdeen Sheriff Court, the company admitted Offshore Installations (Prevention of Fire and Explosion, and Emergency Response) and Health and Safety at Work Act breaches.

The HSE found that the offshore workers on the rig were put at an “unacceptable risk of serious personal injury or death from fire and explosion” as the pipework had not been properly inspected for years.

After the incident, HSE inspectors found the pipe had been corroded by salt water, produced by a fire extinguishing system on the rig that used sea water.

Most of the 100 personnel on the platform had been gathered in the accommodation block, ahead of their Boxing Day meal, so they were not near the leak on Module 14.

HSE inspector Ahmedur Rezwan, said: "This incident is a further reminder of the ever-present hazards in oil and gas production, that if not rigorously managed can easily result in a potentially life-threatening event.

"During any normal period of operations personnel could easily have been working in, or transiting through Module 14, and they would almost certainly have been killed or suffered serious injury.

"The timing of the incident and fact that the gas did not ignite was fortuitous."

Marathon said in a statement: "Marathon Oil confirms that the company has been fined in a case relating to a gas release which occurred on the Brae Alpha platform on 26 December 2015.

"The company has fully co-operated with the HSE and complied with the measures suggested in the improvement notice. The safety of our personnel is a top priority, and we've taken action to resolve issues relating to this incident."

Marathon also contributed £470,000 to the HSE investigation.

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