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Total are foggy about Elgin gas impact

Total's Elgin platform 150 miles east of Aberdeen, now at the centre of an exclusion zone following an unprecedented leak of gas that could take six months to plug.

AN EXCLUSION zone has been put in place around the Elgin platform, 150 miles east of Aberdeen, as gas continues to escape from an unidentified leak.

Operator Total said on Tuesday it could take up to six months to drill a relief well to contain the leak, the likes of which is unprecedented in the offshore industry.

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The company has so far made no comment on the potential implications for its £2.5 billion investment into the Laggan and Tormore gas fields, west of Shetland.

As part of that investment a £500 million gas plant is being built next to the Sullom Voe oil terminal, in Shetland.

Unions have warned that the gas leak, which started on Sunday, has the potential for “catastrophic devastation” should the cloud of gas surrounding the Elgin platform ignite.

The gas produced on the Elgin platform was described by scientists as “very flammable and quite poisonous”.

A Total statement on Tuesday said: “All necessary measures are being taken to respond appropriately to the situation and to minimize its impact.

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“Investigations are ongoing to analyse the causes and to determine the remediation of the gas leak. Total is actively monitoring the situation with standby vessels in the area.

“A surveillance aircraft flown over the area has confirmed a sheen on the water in the vicinity of the platform. This sheen is related to drilling muds and/or light condensate associated to the gas representing a volume estimated today at about 30 m³. 

“Preliminary assessments indicate no significant impact to the environment and dispersants are not considered necessary at this stage.”

Scottish environment minister Richard Lochhead said: “Efforts by Total to resolve the gas leak are ongoing. As the situation currently stands impact on the environment – which is the Scottish government’s area of responsibility – is minimal.”

All 238 personnel were evacuated off the Elgin platform. Oil company Shell has moved 120 non-essential staff from the nearby Shearwater platform and Hans Deul drilling rig.

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