Major incident at Poole Harbour after oil pipeline leak

A major incident has been declared at Poole Harbour in Dorset after a leak from a pipeline from the Wytch Farm oil field.

Poole Harbour. Photo: Alwyn Ladell

An estimated 200 barrels of oil and reservoir fluids (about 11,000 gallons) are thought to have leaked into the water.

The incident, which was first reported at 1.43pm today (Sunday 26 March 2023), centred on a pipeline operated by Perenco, under Owers Bay.

Poole Harbour Commissioners (PHC) said they had implemented the oil spill plan and were assessing the situation. The pipeline has been closed and booms installed either side of the leak.

People have been warned not to swim in the harbour or surrounding area.

The Environment Agency said it had received reports of a “large amount of oil” in the harbour.

A coastguard aircraft was reported to checking the harbour area after reports of the leak.

Poole Harbour has several sites of special scientific interest and nature reserves, including Brownsea Island and the RSPB reserve at Arne. The Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty described news of the leak as “deeply concerning”. Ospreys, which fish in the harbour, were spotted in the area this morning.

Perenco extracts oil from the Wytch Farm field from the southern shore of Poole Harbour. The field is the UK’s biggest onshore producer, accounting for more than 80% of annual UK onshore production. The company also operates fields at Kimmeridge and Wareham in Dorset.

Franck Dy, the general manager at Wytch Farm, said in a statement:

“Any spill is an extremely serious matter and a full investigation will be launched to ascertain what happened at Poole Harbour.

“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.”

Philip Broadhead, leader of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, tweeted a statement:

“The Wytch Farm oil field in the Purbecks has been operating since 1979 and is one of the largest onshore oil fields in Europe. We have today been advised by the operators that there has been a leak from the facility. Whilst this has been contained, we are told that oil has escaped into the water and surrounding area.

“We are liaising closely as part of long-established mechanisms with a variety of parties as this situation unfolds. The lead agency on this is Poole Harbour Commissioners and they have just issued a press release with further information. A major incident has been declared which results in all relevant partner agencies working closely together.

“As leader of the council I will, along with the senior Council team, be working to see what implications this leak may have and what action we may need to take. It is of course extremely disappointing to hear of this event and while there will be a time later for anger and investigation, our focus now must be on ensuring we can mitigate any impacts of this situation.”

A statement from PHC said:

“Earlier today a leak occurred at a pipeline operated by Perenco under Owers Bay in Poole Harbour.

“It is estimated that approximately 200 barrels of reservoir fluid has been released into the water column in Poole Harbour.

“The pipeline has been shut down and booms have been placed on either side of the leak. An assessment is currently being carried out.

“Perenco have mobilised Oil Spill Response Ltd and Poole Harbour Commissioners (PHC) have mobilised Adler and Allen to assist with this incident. These companies are specialists in oil spill response incidents.

“PHC have activated their oil spill plan and are working with a number of organisations. A major incident has now been declared and a gold command unit has been established.”

The UK Heath Security Agency said:

“Members of the public should not swim in Poole Harbour or the surrounding area until further notice. Anyone who has come into contact with the spill should wash immediately with soap and water. If eyes have come into contact with the spill, they should be rinsed with water.”

Dorset Council said it was supporting the Poole Harbour commissioners and other agencies to respond to the incident.

The MP for Poole, Sir Robert Syms, tweeted that he hoped to ask an urgent question on the incident in the House of Commons tomorrow.

Vicki Elcoate, of Fossil Fuel Free Dorset, told DrillOrDrop this evening:

“This is a devestating blow to this fragile and important wildlife habitat. Perenco have a duty of care to look after it and it appears they have failed. The problem with allowing fossil fuel extraction to continue is that as well as the hugely damaging issue of greenhouse gas emissions, spills like this have a major impact on the environment”.

44 replies »

  1. BoPH Statement: Poole Harbour Oil Spill
    Poole Harbour is an incredibly important area environmentally. It has multiple protective designations in place including the Poole Harbour SPA (Special Protection Area), the Poole Harbour SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) as well as being a designated RAMSAR site in which it is recognised as an internationally important wetland. The reason it has such a high level of protection is because of the important range of habitats and species that call Poole Harbour home.
    Although we don’t know the full extent of yesterday’s spill yet, the fact it’s happened right in the middle of such an environmentally important area is incredibly worrying. Poole Harbour hosts nationally and internationally important numbers of wetland birds each winter and equally important numbers of other species including Sandwich and Common Terns which nest on Brownsea each summer. Right now we’re in that important transition period where our winter birds are leaving, and our summer birds are arriving, many of which use the southern shore of the harbour for feeding, nesting and hunting. Each month we conduct Wetland Bird Surveys across the harbour to monitor populations of over-wintering birds. The last survey which was conducted on March 5th logged 5450 birds along the southern shore in the spill area.

    The local community have an incredibly strong attachment to the harbour and it’s environment which was highlighted yesterday morning when our male Osprey arrived back safely from West Africa, exciting thousands of people as he landed on the nest seen via a camera we installed this winter. His mate is expected to arrive back in early April after they bred for the first time in 2022, becoming the first pair to do so following an absence of nearly 200 years. The elation of the male’s safe return home yesterday morning was soon dashed by late afternoon when news of the oil spill was announced. Ospreys exclusively eat fish, and our pair hunt in the harbour about 95% of the time during the spring and summer season feeding on Grey Mullet, Flounder and Bass.

    Over the next few weeks both Sandwich and Common Tern will be arriving back from their wintering grounds to nest on Brownsea, and will be reliant on fishing in the harbour to feed their young. Breeding waders have just begun courtship with Oystercatcher and Redshank currently settling on the beaches of Poole Harbours islands and salt marsh. Right now huge numbers of birds are on the move, having over-wintered further south and will soon be using Poole Harbour as a service station to feed up before continuing north. When it comes to an issue like this there are several areas of concern. One is that any birds that come into physical contact with this substance can see their feathers damaged and become less water resistant. The substance will also encourage any effected birds to preen constantly, meaning they could ingest the hazardous liquid. The other unknown is how much of the oil will settle on the mud and harbour shorelines and what impact will that have on marine invertebrates. There are so many unanswered questions currently, although thankfully, as of yet there have been no confirmed reports of any birds showing signs of distress as a result of the incident, although it is still early days.

    We will be in constant communication with local partners and the community over the coming days to ensure we’re able to support where we can. We ask that the public remain vigilant and report any birds that look in distress to a local wildlife rescue centres, which can be found through this directory. You can also keep us informed via email on to help us understand the scale of the impact and provide support when needed. We will also be coordinating the local WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey) volunteers in the meantime to arrange an additional survey of the harbour and assess any impacts to birdlife as soon as possible.

    Thank you,

    Team BoPH

    • At last, someone who admits the truth and the facts about the oil spill and pipeline leak, known somewhat innocuously as a ‘reservoir fluid’ leak in Poole Harbour at this vitally important springtime for indiginous and migrating wildlife.
      I was beginning to wonder why an infamous fossil fuel supporter neither cared or even would admit to the environmental disaster at this vitally important spring time for wildlife already under threat in Poole Harbour.

      I shall know who to ignore entirely in the future, and who not to ignore.

      So thank you for admitting the seriousness of this ‘reservoir fluid’ oil leak in Poole Harbour.

      I’m sure this event will be carefully monitored by many and similarly to decide who cares and who does not, and why.

      • Ahh, the caring. However, whilst caring I avoid the May happen that started at hospitals collapsing, then all animal life in Ohio being wiped out, followed by caring about animals fed limestone. Can’t see much evidence to support any of that nonsense, posted to “encourage” people to care about nonsense, to date. Entertaining, but assuming a pretty poor standard of intelligence amongst the audience and that a call to care will prevent any intelligence being used.

        So far, the plan to control the spill appears to be working pretty well, with latest comments from the experts predicting this morning any oil remaining after the clean up, already underway, should break down in 6-8 weeks. I even noted one expert was stating that the control and clean up looked to be pretty efficient compared to what might happen over the horizon!

        Quite simply, YYL, there is no evidence currently to talk about an “environmental disaster”. There are many unanswered questions.[Edited by moderator] The people on the ground, including the RSPB, seem to be giving a different picture at the moment. If one wants to speculate, there is just as much possibility of little environmental impact locally but extra funding towards the organizations that look after the environment in the area. I would hope the latter is the case, if I was prone to speculation.

        I know already who to ignore, and who to consider. Reset have provided me with the information. I will go with that.

        • Oh mon dieu! Une telle colère?
          Touché une fois de plus par la vérité et les faits.
          Au contraire, je vous mets au défi de réfuter tout ce que je dis, mon petit poulet de propagande politique !
          La preuve en est dans les faits.
          Contrairement à votre gaufre, les faits parlent d’eux-mêmes.
          Vos faux récits ne font que condamner vos propres faux récits.

          • Translation – Oh my god! Such anger? Touched once again by truth and facts. On the contrary, I challenge you to refute anything I say, my little chicken of political propaganda! The proof is in the facts. Unlike your waffle, the facts speak for themselves. [Edited by moderator]

            Further –

            [Edited by moderator] you have merely attempted to reduce anything into waffle and sophistry, as I have proven time and time again. The Poole Harbour oil leak and pipeline spill is obviously of such an embarrassing event for you, that all you have written is obfuscatory [edited by moderator] about nuclear accidents of all things. For your information, Chernobyl and Fukushima are nothing to do with fossil fuel leaks into Poole Harbour and the vital spring migration of wildlife and environmental disaster that is still ongoing. Such is your frantic attempts at introducing spurious sophistry into any attempts to prove otherwise. At least some of your fellows are attempting to pursue the facts, as I have praised them for.

            Failure to provide any contrary provable facts to disprove the truth and the facts I have written so many times, will leave me no further choice but to ignore anything you say in this, or any other, subject now and in the future. That is all you get.

            Touché encore une fois, par la vérité, mon petit poulet de propagande politique.

      • YY – reservoir fluid is the correct term; water, no doubt saline, unless the sedimentary reservoir was lacustrine in origin, with some crude oil. The field is at the stage where water is produced (pumped) with some oil as a bonus. Presumably still economic.

        Infamous fossil fuel supporter? That’s an odd description. You would be better to describe me as someone who worked in the upstream oil and gas industry for 35 years all over the world (but not North America, other than on training courses) and who can contribute to this BB based on actual experience.

        Of course we are all fossil fuel supporters, yourself included. You are also part of the demand which necessitates the supply. Perhaps a realist living in the real world with extensive international experience would be a better description of me? Now retired and spending my time travelling and working in wildlife conservation, Osprey, Otter (lutra lutra), UK Raptors in NW England, African Painted Dogs and Indian rhino (the single horned rhino). And I have my own WEBS (see below) area in NW England.

        We don’t know if there is an “environmental disaster” at this stage. The reported volumes are small and there is a contingency plan in place which is being implemented. The latest information from BOPH is:

        “The full extent of what’s happened is still unclear, but internally we’re working on plans to start assessing the initial impacts by organising an emergency WeBS (Wetland bird Survey) count this coming Sunday. This will assess current bird totals, but will also identify where birds are spending their time and if any birds have been physically impacted by the spill. This will provide an initial baseline of the situation, one that we hope doesn’t highlight too many issues.”

        • Pas de Paul Tresto. Tu sais parfaitement que je ne parlais pas de toi. Donc, puis-je vous suggérer de ne pas essayer de faire de fausses montagnes avec des taupinières mal représentées. De plus, à l’avenir, veuillez utiliser mon nom complet si vous voulez vous référer à moi. [une insulte délibérée courante, semble-t-il]. Puisque vous avez fourni le rapport ‘Les oiseaux du port de Poole’ sur la catastrophe environnementale, je vous félicitais pour votre honnêteté, pas le destinataire évident qui a étrangement répondu dans la gaufre habituelle.

          Translation –

          No Paul Tresto. You know perfectly well that I wasn’t speaking about you. So, may I suggest you don’t attempt to make false mountains out of misrepresented molehills. What’s more, in future, please use my full name if you want to refer to me at all. [a common deliberate insult, it seems]. Since you provided the Birds of Poole Harbour report, about the environmental disaster, I was praising you for your honesty, not the obvious recipient who strangely replied in the usual waffle.

          Is that perfectly clear to you?

          Now I have to continue translating this engineering report for the contractor.

          • Very touchy today? I don’t know your full name YYLee so how can I refer to you by your full name (at all). Your comment reads as a response to me. Not to worry, just remember you are also part of the fossil fuel demand driving supply problem, as am I, and everyone else on this BB and the rest of the planet.

            “I shall know who to ignore entirely in the future, and who not to ignore.”??

            • Thank you for your reply Paul Tresto. Judging by the terse, if not rude, responses that some produce here on this website, I assumed you all liked to be ‘very touchy today’ if not every day? Do you have other names? A ‘middle’ name, or nickname perhaps? Do you always write that in full on this web site? I see many use pseudonyms, which are not anything to do with their real names at all? ‘Avatars’ I believe they are called in tech language parlance. Do you call them by their pseudonyms, or their real names? Do you only pick perceived opposition to criticize for shortened nomenclature, or everyone and everything?
              For example – ‘Wordnik’
              – ‘A fictitious name, especially a pen name. A false name; especially, a fictitious name assumed by an author in order to conceal or veil his identity. In natural history, the vernacular name of a species or other group of animals or plants, as distinguished from its tenable technical name: thus, Robin is the pseudonym of Turdus migratorius.’ –

              Would you call a Robin a ‘Turdus migratorius’ or Turdus for short? Would you call anyone who was christened with the name ‘Robin’, ‘Turdus’? I suspect not. A most unfortunate translation, isn’t it?

              My full name is shortened to initials and surname ‘YYLee’ on purpose for simple pronunciation reasons. Though thankfully not for the equivalent of the ‘Robin’ interpretation for such unfortunate reasons as is shown. Since my full name quite long and difficult for some. The full name phonetic translation exceeds the English alphabets’ capability, and that’s only the easy part. My friends and family tend to call me ‘Sun’. [a little English joke there].

              If you really want to experience ‘very touchy today’, I suggest you visit some of the less touristy parts of Japan. Though, I wouldn’t advise it without a guide and a bodyguard.

              So YYLee is perfectly adequate for the purposes of this forum, but may I suggest, out of courtesy, that it is not shortened any further. Thank you very much for your consideration.

              Aisatsu [挨拶]

    • I am afraid oiled birds are not new in Poole Harbour, KatT and nothing to do with the current situation. It is a pretty busy habour. All along that stretch of coastline, in addition to local shipping and boating, there have been repeated incidents of oil from passing shipping arriving on beaches. I can remember around 60 years ago, whilst on holiday, being warned by my parents to avoid oil on beaches local to Poole Harbour. It did not come from UK on shore. If I was careless, then petrol was used to clean me off!

      I trust there are not too many currently. On Monday pm they were reporting two, that had been caught and cleaned. From subsequent reports regarding the nature of the spill, the clean up and the speed of breakdown, one would expect those numbers to rise somewhat, but also to be less oiled. The long term implications are not known, until they are it would be speculation.

  2. How refreshing to see a bit of French, though I don’t understand why. Is this the welcome new International DorD?
    Nor do I see why Paul took it personally. I certainly didn’t think it was so directed.

    • Hi Iaith1720, I tend to speak and write French, since there are French relatives in my family. I also use French in my engineering capabilities. French is also a beautiful language, more so than English, which is my adopted language. My family ‘mix and match’ all three and our children are learning Spanish too! Amongst friends I tend to speak English with the odd French word which is understood by most.
      It makes life quite interesting sometimes. As for names people can use anything they like. Though there are moves to stop that. Its only courtesy to use the complete version however.

    • Quite simple really, 1720, if posters attempt to be smart, it can backfire.

      In respect of this particular incident, I have not been touchy at all. I don’t do angry either, although previously accused of that.

      I am awaiting two things:

      Firstly, the cause of this incident. I do recall an incident that was directed towards an operator which actually had nothing to do with them. Another pipeline (water) damaged. Reported on DoD and raised in the HoC. I suspect this one is due to the operator but has yet to be confirmed, unless I have missed something. (I have dug up and broken a BT cable in my youth, it was not the responsibility of BT.)

      Secondly, the degree of the damage to the environment. Currently, reports from those on the ground indicate the immediate damage has been contained and is minimal. Longer term damage is obviously a concern but again the local scientific (remember that?) comment is that 6-8 weeks should see any residual fluid break down. The nature of that fluid would appear to be quite key to that consideration that the comment is based upon. It has been quite carefully detailed in UK, but appears to have become confused in translation.

      It is open for those from as far afield as Japan(?) to be so involved with UK hospitals, Ohio trains and now Poole Harbour, however I prefer to find my information on any of those subjects from locals, without an axe to grind.

      Meanwhile, I continue to use fossil fuels as does everyone else who posts on this site. I also note the scientific consensus is that fossil fuels will be required after/if Net Zero is achieved. Therefore, where they are produced, to me, is the key. Oil is priced in $s. Currency value against the $ is therefore important. Trashing the Balance of Payments reduces currency value, in UK case, the £. The same £ that may be required to invest in things like——–holidays and renewables!
      Of course, it is open to anyone to go off grid now regarding fossil fuels. Good luck to them, but they don’t appear on DoD so will not get my message!

      Just hearing an Osprey has migrated from Scotland to Barbados! “Might” have taken a rest on a boat or two is being suggested. Wonder if so, were they using fossil fuel? Good job there were no wind turbines in the way.

    • I replied to your question Iaith1720, it’s in ‘consideration mode’ at present, though I can’t discern any reason why.
      However, apparently misanthropy and xenophobia are perfectly acceptable. ‘It’s a funny old world, isn’t it’?

  3. Just a note to add to the Latin name of Robins. Apparently, the European Robin [also the British Robin] Latin name is ‘Erithacus rubecula’. Whereas ‘Turdus migratorius’ is the American Latin name. [who on Earth in America came up with that little gem?]. An American website derivation, no doubt.

    And also, in order to correct and to clear up another attempt at misrepresented facts and truth, to correct at an attempt at misanthropy and xenophobia. I would remind the ‘attempter’. That I have lived in Great Britain all my life, except for contracts elsewhere in the world. I have also visited Poole Harbour bay several times with some twitcher relatives and friends of mine and sat on the bench at Arne where the Guardian photograph was taken.

    My parents and grandparents also have lived here permanently, but for similar extra Britannia excursions when possible. My Great grandparents arrived here via China and Eastern Europe as it was, from Japan, through to France. Where they stayed for a while. Finally arriving at these British shores, having been invited to work for the British government as translators, and to assess the extent of Germany and Japan’s warlike capability via contacts and documents. Mainly as they had viewed that throughout China, Eastern Europe and in France. That war invasion happened only too soon after, as history is only too aware of, even now.
    They brought with them as many French people as diplomatically possible. Since many French people had Jewish ancestry. By then, in Germany, it was only too clear what was to be the fate of Jewish people and any potential opposition races and cultures wherever the growing national socialists had influence. Later, of course, it was Poland, Austria, Belgium, and France that suffered from invasion.
    My Japanese ancestry is now combined with French, British and Jewish family marriages before I was born. I consider the attempt to isolate a previous 3rd generation ancestry, or with any other race, including those mentioned and many others with relatives further afield, including America, Canada, and too many to mention, to be an example of the same growing misanthropy and xenophobia that had destroyed so many lives and countries in the past.

    For examples of the growing dangers arising once again as it did in Europe and the world all that time ago, you may wish to watch the series of documentaries produced by Vera Sharav, herself a holocaust survivor and truth speaker and writer –

    01/24/23 – ‘Holocaust Survivor Vera Sharav Premiers ‘Never Again Is Now Global’ on CHD.TV’
    *’ – – ‘*

    That is all I have to say on the subject.

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