Total expects to restart production from the Elgin and Franklin fields in the North Sea within "a very few days" after the UK's Health and Safety Executive (HSE) announced Wednesday this week that it had given the go ahead for production to resume on the company's Elgin platform. The Elgin platform was shut down almost a year ago, on March 25, 2012, after a major gas leak.
A spokesman for Total told Rigzone following the HSE announcement:
"Now that the HSE has accepted the safety case we will be looking to restart safe production at Elgin as soon as it's practical to do so, which we hope will be within a very few days."
The spokesman added that Total would make an announcement once production has resumed.
The resumption of gas production at Elgin is much needed by the UK's energy infrastructure at the moment. UK energy regulator Ofgem warned Feb. 19 that a dwindling of foreign gas supplies was among the factors contributing to "uncomfortably tight" energy reserves in the country.
Once resumption begins Elgin/Franklin will reach 70,000 boepd – only half its pre-shutdown output of 140,000 boepd – by the end of this year and that it will not reach its full output until 2015, warned Patrice de Vivies, Total's senior vice president of exploration and production for Northern Europe, in February.
The restart of production should also eventually see the full complement of more than 230 personnel who work on the platform return to duty.
Total had hoped that production on the Elgin platform would resume by the end of 2012, but the HSE took longer than expected to decide if it was safe to resume production. Indeed, there was concern that the resumption of production might be delayed further when an HSE spokesman said March 1 that the safety regulator was still assessing the case for the Elgin restart and that the matter was "complex".
Total shut down and evacuated non-essential personnel from the Elgin March 25, 2012 after a sheen of gas was reported within the vicinity of the platform.
The firm soon performed a "dynamic kill" well-intervention operation – using the West Phoenix (UDW semisub) rig – that involved pumping heavy mud into the well that had leaked, which was achieved in May. A lengthier process to seal the well with cement was completed in autumn.
Total stated in August last year that the overall environmental impact of the gas leak incident at Elgin was "minimal", with 3,096 tons of natural gas and 3,076 tons of condensate being lost because of the leak. Most of this evaporated in the atmosphere, the firm said, while the sheen – representing some 407 tons of condensate – dispersed naturally into the sea.
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