Oil giant Shell is preparing to remove a World War II mine threatening one of the UK’s most important gas pipelines.
A subsea bomb squad will coordinate the dive to reach the device, which is located in the North Sea 62 miles off St Fergus, in August.
The mine has been monitored by Shell since it was first discovered in 1993. It is understood the mine is in a stable condition but lies beneath a pipeline responsible for 5% of the UK’s daily gas supply.
A spokeswoman for Shell said: "Shell became aware of this unexploded ordnance in 1993. Since that time the company has regularly inspected the site and sought professional advice on how best to proceed.
“The consistent advice the company received was to leave the mine in position and continue to monitor it periodically.
"The development of new technology means that Shell believes it may now be possible to remove the mine.
"Shell is considering technical options for the safe removal and disposal of the unexploded ordnance.”
Shell had no idea the British-made mine was just below the pipeline - known as FLAGS (Far North Liquids and Associated Gas System) - when it was completed in 1978 and commissioned in May 1982.
Liquids and gas from numerous platforms in the North Sea, including four Brent platforms, are transported through the pipeline every day.
Shell were initially advised to leave the device in place when the Royal Navy first inspected it in 1993.
But Shell have always been keen to remove the mine and kept in close contact with Portsmouth-based unexploded ordnance disposal firm Ramora UK to find a solution. And due to new technology - known as a Remote Explosive Ordnance Disposal System, or REODS - Shell are looking to lift and dispose of the bomb safely in August.
It is understood that a bag will be attached to a lifting mechanism which is to be dropped to the sea bed.
The bag is designed to inflate around the mine and float to the surface. The bomb will then be towed to a safe area, lowered to the seabed and detonated. Shell recently deployed a guard vessel to keep a continuous watch on the site.
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