Source of North Sea platform gas leak located, says Total
Mar 28, 2012, 18:37 GMT
London - Oil company Total said Wednesday it had located the source of a gas leak on an offshore drilling platform in Britain, but stopping the escape of gas could take several months.
'We believe we know where the gas is coming from, we have a good idea where it is coming from,' Total spokesman David Hainsworth said in Aberdeen, in Scotland, northern Britain.
The leak on the Elgin platform was located at a disused well approximately 4,000 metres beneath the seabed. A sheen of gas condensate of approximately 4.8 square kilometres has formed on the sea surface around the platform.
Total evacuated 238 workers from the platform Sunday when the leak was first spotted. An exclusion zone for shipping and air traffic has been imposed around the offshore platform.
Earlier Wednesday, the company confirmed that a flare was still alight on the Elgin platform, heightening fears by experts and environmentalists that the gas could be ignited.
But Total said the flare was positioned well away from the drilling platform, and the wind was currently blowing the gas plume in the opposite direction. It was hoped that the flame would burn itself out.
There had been 'no real evolution' in the situation regarding the gas leak Wednesday, said Hainsworth. Spotter planes were monitoring the area and a surveillance vessel had been dispatched, equipped with remote operation cameras to take underwater images.
Hainsworth said the company was pursuing two parallel options to stop the leak. These were to pump mud into the well in what is known as a 'dynamic kill', or to build a relief well, which would take several months.
Experts have said that - while the risk of an explosion remains, and there could be a degree of marine pollution - the incident could in no way be compared with a disaster on the scale of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010.
'The risks are really considerably smaller because of the nature of what's coming out,' said Martin Preston, a marine pollution specialist at the University of Liverpool.
'If it was oil, and we had a Gulf of Mexico event in the North Sea, that would be catastrophic. It would be much more damaging than in the Gulf of Mexico,' he said.
Earlier Wednesday, a senior government official in London said the safety regime for oil and gas exploration in Britain rated among the best in the world.
'We have in place emergency plans ... and these contribute to the North Sea being the most robust safety regime in the world - something which the Americans recognized after the Gulf of Mexico,' said Charles Hendry, minister of state in the Department for Energy and Climate Change.
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