Bad weather hampering efforts to clean up a million gallon oil spill from a North Sea platform off Norway was also helping break up the slick and keep it away from the coast, the StatoilHydro ASA oil company said Thursday.
The spill Wednesday at the Statfjord offshore field was the second-largest spill in Norway's offshore petroleum history, even though at 25,000 barrels it was far smaller than the most serious spill of 78,000 barrels during a platform blowout in 1977.
The oil was spilled during the process of transferring it through a loading buoy to a tanker ship at the field, which is about 125 miles off Bergen, the main city on Norway's west coast.
The company said gale force winds and 19-foot waves hampered efforts to use oil spill equipment to contain the nearly 9-square-mile slick and collect it in special ships, but it also helped break up the oil.
"StatoilHydro's calculations suggest that the oil slick is dissolving and will not reach the coast," the statement said. The Norwegian Coastal Administration has also said there is little chance of the crude oil reaching land.
The crude that spilled is a light type that typically evaporates and breaks up quickly, according to the company and experts.
Virtually all of the oil will be gone from the surface by late Friday through evaporation or being churned into the ocean, according to calculations performed by Norwegian research institute SINTEF for StatoilHydro.
Government-controlled StatoilHydro, with about 31,000 employees, is the main player on the offshore fields that make Norway a major exporter of oil and natural gas.
The cause of the spill appeared to be a defect on a floating oil loading buoy, which is used to transfer crude oil to tank ships.
By comparison, the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster spilled 11 million gallons. An accident off South Korea last week spilled 2.7 million gallons.