Total has reported that the flare on the abandoned Elgin platform in the North Sea – where a gas leak was reported on March 25 – has gone out. The French oil major is now preparing to re-board the platform.
The UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said over the weekend that Total had confirmed that the flare on the Elgin platform had gone out.
Energy Minister Charles Hendry on Saturday said: "Total confirmed to me this morning that the flare on the Elgin platform has naturally extinguished itself. This comes as very welcome news and a considerable relief. Although the platform was designed to use the prevailing wind to keep the flare from the escaping gas, the fact the flare is out removes a major risk from the equation."
Hendry continued: "The task now is very clear – every effort must be made to locate and stop the gas leak. Following my visit to Total's emergency control room yesterday, I know they have some of the best expertise in the world on hand to consider their options. The government continues to monitor the situation very closely to ensure this incident can be resolved as quickly and with as little risk to human life and the environment as possible."
Dow Jones Newswires reported Monday that Total is currently in a dialogue with the UK's Health and Safety Executive over a plan to board the Elgin platform. By law, Total is required to send a comprehensive risk assessment to the HSE before returning to the platform.
According to a Total spokesperson the firm is making preparations to launch operations to end the gas leak, with specialized crews from Wild Well Control expected to board the abandoned platform early this week. (Wild Well Control helped tackle the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.)
Total is considering two options to tackle the gas release. The first is to drill a relief well. The firm has already mobilized two drill rigs – the Sedco 714 (mid-water semisub) and the Rowan Gorilla V (400' ILC) – to drill a well to intersect the main well and then shut off the gas flow. The second option involves blocking the well with "heavy mud" – using a mixture containing mineral compounds to be pumped into the well to suppress the flow of gas.
Meanwhile, DECC has begun publishing details of all UK oil spills on its website. The move was announced Friday at press conference in Aberdeen and is aimed at increasing transparency in the industry.
Geraldine Amiel from Dow Jones Newswires contributed to this report.
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