Fears were growing yesterday that a naked flame on a leaking gas rig could spark a massive explosion and lead to a major pollution incident in the North Sea.
Total, the operator of the Elgin platform, 2,225km east of Aberdeen, confirmed yesterday that in addition to a growing methane gas “cloud”, a 4.8km2 sheen of oil “condensates” was covering the surface of the water near the platform. But the company played down risks of major pollution. “The situation is stable. We continue to take all possible measures to identify the source of the leak and bring it under control,” it said.
It is believed the main reservoir at the base of the drill shaft has been closed off, but gas and condensates may be leaking from any of several points above it. Martin Preston, marine pollution specialist at the University of Liverpool, said that both greenhouse gas emissions and local fish deaths were a concern. “The methane release represents a significant explosion hazard, and of course methane is a potent greenhouse gas. The gas in this field is ‘sour gas’ – it contains hydrogen sulphide, which is very poisonous to humans and aquatic life – so localised risks to marine life are likely.” – (Guardian service)