* Operator TAQA says begins process of restarting
* Oil forms part of global benchmark Brent
* Traders expect outage to delay Brent shipments
DUBAI/LONDON, March 7 (Reuters) - The Brent oil pipeline system in the British North Sea, which forms part of the global Brent benchmark, has began a restart after its second shutdown in almost two months, adding downward pressure to prices.
The 80,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) system was shut on Saturday after more oil was found to have leaked into a leg of the 10,000 bpd Cormorant Alpha platform, which has remained offline since an earlier leak led to a shutdown in mid-January.
A spokesman for Abu Dhabi-based operator TAQA confirmed on Thursday the start-up had begun, adding that it would take time before crude started flowing again because other operators would have to restart their fields.
“Investigations have found there is no connection between the Brent pipeline system and the pipeline involved in the release,” Abu Dhabi National Energy Co. said in a statement.
“The process of restarting Brent throughput follows a thorough technical evaluation that shows it is safe to do so without any increased risk to Cormorant Alpha.”
As Brent is one of the four North Sea crudes used as a benchmark to price oil around the world, the system’s closure supported the market this week. Oil traders said the restart was weighing on prices on Thursday.
Brent crude futures were down 46 cents at $110.60 a barrel by 1328 GMT.
North Sea oil traders expected the lack of production this week to lead to some delays in Brent shipments.
Six cargoes of 600,000 barrels each were scheduled to load in March. A schedule for April, issued to cargo owners and traders on Thursday, showed supply next month will fall to five cargoes, possibly reflecting the knock-on effect of this week’s outage.
Around 90,000 bpd of oil typically flows through Cormorant Alpha, including 10,000 bpd of production from Cormorant Alpha when it is fully operational.
Cormorant Alpha’s output has remained shut down since the earlier hydrocarbons leak in the same leg and will remain closed while work on the platform leg is completed, TAQA said.
The Brent system is jointly owned by 21 companies. It consists of part of the processing systems and structure on Cormorant Alpha, 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.