• View of the production, utilities and quarters (PUQ) and wellhead platforms on Elgin in the U.K. It's located 240 kilometers offshore, east of Aberdeen, in a water depth of 93 meters.

    FOTO: Total

Gas leak probably from old well

“Total can use mud and fluid to stop the leak if it comes from the pipeline.”

The gas leak in the North Sea is believed to originate from an old well plugged a year ago. Bellona calls it “good news”.

Yesterday, Total spokesperson Jacques-Emmanuel Saulnier said the leak probably stems from a failure in a well 4,000 meters below the earth's surface, plugged and abandoned a year ago.

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Firefighting vessels to gas-leak site in the North Sea

A flame is still burning in the stack above a North Sea platform.

There is no evidence of the release of explosive gas or condensate directly from the seabed, and the leak appears to be limited to the Elgin wellhead installation.

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Total calls in help to stop gas leak in the North Sea

Two more flights will be carried out today.

“This isn’t good because a leak is serious, of course, but it's not as bad as it could have been,” Bellona Foundation leader Frederic Hauge said to Aftenbladet.

He added, “Total can use mud and fluid to stop the leak if it comes from the pipeline.”

No toxic substances

Total also stated the gas cloud that has leaked from the platform and blown eastwards does not contain toxic substances, and thus constitutes no risk to  workers at nearby oil and gas installations.

Nevertheless, experts are still concerned that the flame still burning on the platform may cause an explosion.

Total has hired experts from Wild Well Control to find out how to stop the leak, according to Mr Saulnier, the same firm that helped BP to plug the Macondo well in Mexico.

Ships moving in

A ship with two remote-controlled submarines and two other ships with fire crews are moving into the area around the gas leak to try to extinguish the flame that is still burning 100 meters from where the gas leak occurred.

Bellona believes it could take a long time to stop the leak if the gas emanates from the reservoir. Should it be from a gas pocket, however, it might just stop of its own accord.

If the gas is coming up through the well, it is likely to be leaking through the plug used to seal it a year ago, Frederic Hauge said.

The worst scenario would be if it the leak is related to the Franklin West reservoir, according to Bellona.

“The gas leak does not contain hydrogen sulphide. This is good news, because it suggests that the gas comes from a pocket of gas in the pipes above the reservoir. It also means that there is less environmental damage,” Mr Hauge declared.

Share price down

Total has not announced an estimate of gas and condensate emissions so far.

The French oil company’s share price has fallen by almost 8 percent this week after the leak started on Sunday.

The Financial Times reports Credit agency Fitch said earlier this week that it could cost Total up to 5.7 billion euros, or 43.6 billion kroner  if it had to leave the area for good.

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