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North Sea natural gas leak has minimal environmental impact

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  • North Sea natural gas leak has minimal environmental impact

    UPDATE 5-Total: "may be months" to stop N.Sea gas cloud
    Tue Mar 27, 2012 6:16pm GMT By Oleg Vukmanovic

    LONDON, March 27 (Reuters) - A cloud of explosive natural gas boiling up from the North Sea out of a leak at Total's evacuated Elgin platform forced another shutdown off the Scottish coast on Tuesday as the French firm warned it could take six months to halt the flow...

    ...The Elgin well, pumping some three percent of Britain's gas output from nearly four miles below the seabed, pushes the frontiers of technology and is one of the deepest, most highly pressurized, offshore natural gas fields in the world. It now sits empty following Sunday's emergency evacuation of 238 crew.

    Total, which said the rupture of an unused reservoir above the main production source seemed to have been caused by its own engineers, is now looking at two main options to cut off the shimmering plume of gas rising above the sea: either drilling a relief well nearby, which could take six months, or - faster but possibly riskier - sending in engineers to "kill" the leak.

    The firm concurred with British authorities which called the environmental impact from the plume of gas and a spreading sheen of light oil on the water "minimal", although environmental pollution experts said much of the gas "cocktail" would be either flammable or poisonous at close quarters. The thin film of oil should evaporate without the need to spray dispersants...