LONDON May 10 A gas leak at Total's
Elgin platform in the North Sea has reduced to a quarter of its
original size, its French operator said on Thursday, as it gears
up to "kill" the well.
The amount of gas spewing from the platform located 240
kilometres off the coast of Scotland's Aberdeen is down to
around 50,000 cubic metres per day from 200,000 cubic metres
measured when the leak first started at the end of March.
"Observations made during 11 over-flights of the area by Oil
Spill Response Limited confirm visual inspections on the Elgin
complex itself, indicating that the leakage rate of gas
continues to diminish," Total said in a statement.
Engineers are days away from starting work to kill the well,
a risky operation which will involve pumping mud down it to stem
the leak and which is dependent on smooth weather conditions.
A drilling platform which was used on a nearby rig before
the incident has now been moved to within 30 metres of the Elgin
platform and will support the well intervention work.
Meanwhile, workers have been drilling a first back-up relief
well around 2 kilometres away from the Elgin platform.
Even though the leak has been spewing gas for nearly eight
weeks, fish and water samples from just outside a two-mile
exclusion zone around the platform have not shown any signs of
hydrocarbon contamination, the Scottish government said.
Total's CFO said the leak was costing the company $3 million
a day, or about $1.5 million before tax and insurance for its
relief operation and another $1.5 million in lost net income.
But he added he saw a possibility for production at Elgin to
gradually restart later this year.
Britain could be facing as much as a 6 percent cut to gas
supplies this summer due to the closure of the Elgin and two
neighbouring gas fields, Britain's energy network operator
National Grid said.