North Sea Gas Platform Leaking - Relief Well Could Take Months To Drill

Nick Bramhall/CC BY-SA 2.0

An emergency if not (yet) a disaster: An offshore natural gas drilling platform, owned by Total, located in the Elgin field in the North Sea is leaking gas and causing sheen 4.8 square kilometers in area on the ocean surface.

Total has said that there is "no significant impact to the environment and dispersants are not considered necessary at this stage," though it could take six months to stop the gas flowing from the platform. It is expected that the venting gas flame itself will be extinguished within 24 hours.

Due to risk of explosion, the Total platform has been abandoned and other company's rigs up to four miles away have also been evacuated. No injuries have been reported.

There is little danger of the methane cloud itself catching fire, The Guardian reports, but there is the possibility that gas trapped in the rig itself could cause an explosion.

In terms of climate impact, Greenpeace's John Sauven said that at current flow rates, and assuming the six month estimate for a relief well is accurate, nearly 800,000 tons of CO2 equivalent will have been sent into the atmosphere—not a huge amount in terms of total global emissions, but a tiny amount either.

For background on the Elgin field, located roughly 140 miles east of Aberdeen, The Oil Drum is a good place to start.

Note: Image above is representative only; it's not the actual platform in question.

Tags: Natural Gas

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