London — Oil flows through the Forties pipeline, the UK's largest crude export stream and source for Scotland's sole refinery, have been curbed after "seepage" was detected in an onshore section of the line, and by a separate issue that led to flaring at the Kinneil terminal, the facilities' new operator, refining and petrochemicals giant Ineos, said Thursday.
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It comes less than six weeks after Switzerland-based Ineos, which is joint owner of the Grangemouth refinery, completed its purchase of the Forties pipeline, and also bought the Kinneil terminal west of Edinburgh, from BP.
Flows through the pipeline have been reduced rather than completely cut, while the Kinneil terminal has been shut down due to a separate issue and was due to be restarted shortly, Ineos told S&P Global Platts.
The Forties pipeline links 85 separate oil and gas fields to create Forties, currently the single largest crude oil grade in the North Sea region and a component of the Brent pricing basket. It compromises a 169 km offshore section from the Forties Unity platform, and a 209 km onshore section that is mostly buried below ground.
Last year, its throughput averaged 445,000 b/d, while the line has a capacity of 610,000 b/d.
"Ineos has mobilized a repair and oil spill response team following the identification of a very small amount of oil seepage during a routine inspection of the Forties Pipeline System at Red Moss, near Netherley, Aberdeenshire, at approximately 10:00 hours yesterday (6 December 2017)," Ineos said in a statement.
A 300 m cordon has been set up around the site of the leak and police have closed a nearby road to enable work to be carried out, Ineos said.
"A small number of local residents within this area have been advised to temporarily relocate," it added. "We will work to resolve the issue and monitor the situation. We apologize for any inconvenience caused."
The leak, amounting to "a few drops per minute," was discovered during maintenance on the pipeline, which is normally buried below ground, the company said, denying there was a "contamination issue."
Regulator the Oil and Gas Authority did not respond to requests for comment.
The Forties pipeline reaches shore at Cruden Bay on the Scottish coast, where an onshore section takes it to the Kinneil plant for stabilization and gas separation, before it is transported to Grangemouth, with a portion feeding the refinery and the rest being exported from the nearby Hound Point tanker terminal.
As yet, no impact on loadings of Forties crude has been reported.
On the situation at Kinneil, Ineos said: "Due to start-up operations there has been flaring at our site in Kinneil. We would like to apologize to local residents for any inconvenience caused and are doing everything we can to minimize any disturbance. The safety of local residents and our staff is our priority and we would like to offer our reassurances that flaring does not pose any risk to the public."
Ineos, owned by UK businessman Jim Ratcliffe, is joint owner of the 200,000 b/d Grangemouth refinery with state-owned PetroChina. It has been expanding its asset base in the North Sea, and trying to kickstart shale drilling in the UK.