Ongoing gas leak in North Sea

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Elgin leak poses massive challenge
[Via BBC News]

An uncontrolled release of fossil fuel out in the ocean. An oil giant’s share price tumbling. A frantic search for techniques to shut off the leak. Sound familiar?

A visit to Aberdeen on Thursday prompted the question of parallels between Total’s struggle at its Elgin rig and BP’s battle with a blowout at its Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Let’s start with the leak itself. Total says it has identified the source: that gas from a deep reservoir is somehow flowing into a part of the underground well system.

The pipework is allowing the gas to reach the surface. And it is then venting into the air at deck-level on the rig.

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The gas has been leaking out of control for the last week or so. At a rate of about 12 million cubic feet a day.

And, like in the Gulf, there are no good options.

There is a gas flare burning 100 meters up and a gas cloud spreading out. Luckily the gas cloud has not reached the flare but no one wants to get close enough to try anything right now.

And it looks like the cause is similar to the BP oil spill – fossil fuel leaking out of the hole. They tried to kill the pressure with heavy mud but that did not work and the workers were evacuated.

In fact, the only way to be sure to stop it is also the same – drill a relief well. But that could leave the gas leaking for 3 months or more.