Operation to kill gas leak on North Sea oil platform is 'complete success'


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The Independent Online

A gas leak on a North Sea oil platform has been stopped, according to the operators.

Work to "kill" the leak started yesterday on Total's Elgin platform, around 150 miles (241km) from Aberdeen, with heavy mud being pumped into the well.

Total said the operation lasted 12 hours.

All 238 staff were evacuated from the platform when the leak was detected almost two months ago in March.

At one point about 200,000 cubic metres of gas was leaking every day but this was said to have been reduced by two-thirds when workers started drilling a relief well last month.

Total was granted approval from the Department of Energy and Climate Change almost two weeks ago to carry out the "kill" operation.

It said: "Total is today able to announce that a well-intervention operation has stopped the G4 well leak on the Elgin complex, 240km from Aberdeen in the UK North Sea.

"The well-intervention operation, which involved pumping heavy mud into the leaking well, began on May 15 and the leak was stopped 12 hours later."

The firm said experts will continue to monitor the well in the coming days to confirm the intervention's "complete success".

Yves-Louis Darricarrere, Total's president of exploration and production, said: "Today a major turning point has been achieved. Our absolute priority was to stop the gas leak safely and as quickly as possible.

"Since March 25 we have been working closely with the authorities and we have communicated transparently and will continue to do so.

"We shall now fully complete the ongoing task and take into account the lessons learnt from this incident."

Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "This is clearly good news from Total that the initial efforts to stop the Elgin gas leak appear to have been successful. Further monitoring will be needed to ensure that this is a lasting solution, but this is a welcome step in the right direction."

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said: "This is welcome news from the Elgin platform and good progress. It is important that the work continues to manage and monitor the well over the coming days to ensure the operation to stop the gas leak has been a complete success.

"The UK Government has been in touch with the company throughout this incident and DECC has closely monitored progress throughout. I am certain that key lessons will be learned from this leak which can be applied across the sector."

Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland, said the news the leak had stopped was welcome, but pointed out it was the second serious leak in the North Sea in two years.

"We should be trying to give up our addiction to oil and gas, and not seeking it out in more difficult places with the risks to the environment that poses when things go wrong," he said.