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Forties crude oil pipeline now closed down for further inspection

LONDON, Dec 12 (Reuters) - The North Sea Forties crude oil pipeline has now been safely shut down and its operator Ineos will conduct further inspection of the hairline crack that prompted the shutdown, a spokesman for the company said on Tuesday.

The pipeline, which carries around 450,000 barrels per day of Forties crude oil and natural gas to Britain, underwent a partial shutdown on Dec. 7 after a minor leak.

"The pipeline has now been safely closed and the pressure taken down. We are now looking at further inspection of the hairline crack," Ineos spokesman Richard Longden said.

He added that it was too early to estimate when any repair work might be complete, but on Monday had said the work would likely take weeks, rather than days.

Forties is the largest crude oil stream in the North Sea and is carried to Hound Point on the Scottish coast, where it is either loaded onto tankers, stored in tanks or piped to the 200,000-bpd Grangemouth refinery.

Britain is in the grip of a cold front that has brought heavy snowfall and prompted the closure of schools and disrupted travel across the country.

(Reporting by Amanda Cooper; Editing by Louise Heavens)