Perenco’s UK spill triggers ‘major incident’ response

Anglo-French operator Perenco suffered an oil leak at its Wytch Farm field operations in Dorset in the UK on Sunday, with a reported 200 barrels of reservoir fluids spilling into Poole Harbour, triggering a declaration of a major incident in a region known for its beaches and nature reserves.

Poole Harbour Commissioners (PHC) has activated its emergency oil spill plan and specialist oil spill response companies are assisting with the operation.

The operator’s statement said: “Perenco UK confirms that there has been a limited oil leak at one of its well sites in its Wytch Farm operations in Dorset. Perenco UK’s incident management team was activated immediately, the leak was stopped and booms deployed as an additional containment to protect Poole Harbour.”

Wytch Farm, described as the largest onshore oilfield in western Europe, is exploited via extended reach wells drilled from the UK mainland.

The leak of reservoir fluid — about 80% saline solution and 20% oil — occurred from a pipeline operated by Perenco UK at Owers Bay in the harbour, PHC chief executive Jim Stewart said.

“Any spill is an extremely serious matter, and a full investigation will be launched to ascertain what happened in Poole Harbour,” Perenco UK’s Wytch Farm general manager Franck Dy said.

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“It is important to stress that the situation is under control, with the discharge of fluids having been stopped and the spill is being contained.”

Perenco has operated the field, originally developed and held by BP, since 2011. Wytch Farm accounts for about 14,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day of production net to Perenco’s 95% interest out of its total about 40,000 boepd output.

A further assessment was to be performed early on Monday morning local time regarding a clean-up operation, the PHC added.

“As a precaution, the public should avoid using the water for recreational purposes and avoid using beaches within Poole Harbour until further intelligence is available,” Stewart said.

Perenco added it is working closely with the relevant authorities following the leak and a clean-up operation is under way.

Poole boasts a natural harbour covering more than 40 square kilometres.