Brent oil system operator still studying whether safe to reopen

DUBAI, March 5 (Reuters) - The operator of the Brent pipeline said it was still studying whether it would be safe to reopen the oil link in the UK North Sea after a leak at a platform forced a shutdown on Saturday as a precaution.

"Before we re-open the Brent pipeline system, we have a series of internal safety checks to go through," a spokeswoman for the Abu Dhabi National Energy Co's (TAQA) UK business said on Tuesday.

"It will only be reopened when we are entirely satisfied that is it safe to do so."

The 80,000 barrel per day (bpd) Brent system was shut for the second time in seven weeks after oil and associated gas was found to have leaked into a leg of the 10,000 barrel per day (bpd) Cormorant Alpha platform, which has been offline since January.

In mid-January, the Brent pipeline system was reopened two days after being shut as a precaution when the first Cormorant leg leak was found.

But three days after the latest closures, there was no restart time yet for the major North Sea oil pipeline to resume operations.

When Abu Dhabi-based TAQA shut the Brent system during a working week in mid-January, the closure supported global oil prices because Brent is one of the four North Sea oils used as a benchmark to price oil around the world.

In both incidents non-essential staff were evacuated from the platform, nobody was injured and no hydrocarbons entered the environment, TAQA said in a statement on its website.

The shutdown over the weekend helped end a two-week slide in Brent crude prices, which had fallen from over $119 a barrel on Feb. 13 to a close of $110.40/bbl on Friday. The benchmark crude oil price briefly broke through $111 on Tuesday.

Britain's Health and Safety Executive has said it was studying whether to launch a full investigation into the incident at Cormorant Alpha.

The Brent system is jointly owned by 21 companies. It consists of part of the processing systems and structure on the Cormorant Alpha platform, operated by TAQA, as well as a pipeline connecting Cormorant Alpha to the BP -operated Sullom Voe Oil Terminal in the Shetland Islands.

Cormorant Alpha also handles oil from the Dunlin, Thistle, Northern producer, Murchison, North Alwyn, Tern, Eider and North Cormorant Platforms.