The oil industry is “hushing up” the extent to which corrosion is eating into pipelines and hitting production, according to an influential oil industry consultant who is also the head of the UK Royal Society of Chemistry.

Richard Pike, who spent 25 years working for BP before becoming a consultant, argues that some of the world’s largest oilfields have recently shut down production so that corroded pipelines could be fixed before they leaked.

He told The Times newspaper that major repair projects had begun in the Middle East, Russia and India. “A lot of the big oil assets are being kept going beyond their 25-year lifespan and it is inevitable that we are beginning to see these sorts of problems.”

Pike claims that the cumulative effect of these closures could be equivalent to BP’s recent shutdown in Prudhoe Bay. “People are keeping this quiet and just getting on with it because there is an awful risk that the outside world will overreact” he says. “They don’t want to broadcast it because the reaction can get out of control”.

As the old PR saying goes: “Crisis what crisis?”