Efforts under way to stop gas leak on North Sea platform
Mar 27, 2012, 17:04 GMT
London - Oil company Total said Tuesday it was taking 'all possible measures' to bring a gas leak from a drilling platform in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland under control.
Earlier Tuesday, the authorities set up a sea-and-air exclusion zone around the Elgin offshore drilling platform, some 240 kilometres from the city of Aberdeen on the east coast of Scotland, in northern Britain.
More than 230 workers were evacuated from the platform Sunday. On Monday, oil company Shell moved about 120 non-essential staff from a nearby drilling platform because of the 'drifting gas.'
The coast guard in Aberdeen said an exclusion zone of about 3 kilometres had been established for vessels and aircraft in the area.
A spokesman for Total E&P UK, which operates the platform, said the source of the leak still had to be identified. The company was taking 'all possible measures' to try to find the source and to bring the leak under control.
The BBC reported that a sheen of between 2 and 23 tons of gas condensate has been visible on the water nearby.
David Hainsworth, Total's health, safety and environment manager, said there was 'no real evolution' in the rate of the gas release Tuesday, and the best hope was that the leak would stop of its own accord.
'The gas is flammable but the platform power was turned off to minimize risk of ignition, but clearly there is a risk,' he said.
'We have taken away a series of risks but there is always a possibility, it's low but you never say never,' he added.
One of the options was to drill a relief well, which could take months and would be extremely costly, experts said. Another was to smother the gas by pumping mud into the well in a process known as 'dynamic kill.'
Jake Molloy, a trade union representative, said that standby vessels had observed the 'sea boiling' below the installation, suggesting that highly pressurized gas was coming up.
'This is an unprecedented situation and we really are in the realms of the unknown, but the urgent need is now to find a way of stopping the flow of gas,' said Molloy.
Simon Boxall, an oceanographer at Southampton University in southern England, said the leak in the 'very deep well' was focused and localized, but probably difficult to tackle.
'The big problem they have is dealing with a very combustible gas which is very flammable and quite poisonous,' he told the BBC.
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