Sunday

22nd Apr 2018

North Sea gas leak 'from hell' enters third day

A North Sea platform, owned by French oil giant Total, has been leaking gas off the coast of Scotland for the past three days.

All 238 personnel have been evacuated from the Elgin platform, which is located 240 km off Aberdeen, fearing an explosion from a sheen of gas condensate - a light hydrocarbon liquid-from-gas - floating on the water's surface.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Power on the platform has been switched off and extraction has been stopped on the nearby Franklin and West Franklin gas fields. Non-essential workers on a nearby platform owned by rival company Shell have also been evacuated.

There is disagreement on how big the Elgin sheen actually is.

Britain's energy minister Charles Hendry on Tuesday (27 March) told Reuters that "the size of the sheen is one-sixteenth of the size of an Olympic swimming pool."

But the BBC reports it could weigh up to 23 tonnes, while the UK has imposed a 4.8-km air and a 2-nautical-mile sea exclusion zone around the platform.

Gas in the water affects the buoyancy of ships as seawater pressure begins to change, so that rescue vessels attempting to approach the rig would sink, according to a representative of RMT-OILC, an offshore workers union.

People who have observed the scene at first hand said the sea water looks as if it is boiling - an indication that gas is still coming up from beneath the rig, the union delegate added.

For its part, Total says it cannot confirm if the sheen is growing or shrinking.

Total chief, David Hainsworth, said the leak might be coming from an outer casing of a well drilled into mud on the sea floor.

The firm added it could take up to six months to drill a relief well to solve the problem. A second, more risky, option would be to send engineers to "kill" the leak. A third, even less likely scenario, would be that the leak dies down of its own accord.

For his part, Frederic Hauge, the head of the Bellona Foundation, a Norwegian-based environmental NGO, said: "If no plugging is achieved, this leak is likely to continue for 10-12 years. This is truly the well from hell."

Elgin and Franklin are two high pressure/high temperature gas and condensate fields in the Central Graben Area of the North Sea. Aside from gas, Elgin also produced 60,000 barrels per day (bpd) of light crude oil.

Documents obtained by the Guardian newspaper last year showed that more than 100 potentially lethal oil and gas spills took place on North Sea rigs owned by Shell and Total between 2009 and 2010.

The Elgin gas leak is a reminder of BP's massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, which at the time led to calls for tighter EU regulation of offshore drilling safety standards.

MEPs call for EU to clean up oil, mining industries

The European Parliament has urged EU countries to clean up the mining and oil industries by publishing what companies pay to get their hands on contracts and by giving legal protection to whistleblowers.

Car lobby uses Brexit to dispute CO2 targets

The lobby group for European car manufacturers has said that if UK sales data is not counted when calculating CO2 emissions, the target should be reviewed. The commission has refused to comment.

New pesticides committee begins work on EU approvals

The new European Parliament committee will try to restore citizens' trust in the procedure after the glyphosate affair. Its 30 members have some experience on pesticide issues - but different positions.

Opinion

More commitment to renewables from Council, please

More and more consumers are likely to invest in solar panels in the future as it becomes simpler to produce one's own electricity, writes Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.

Magazine

A sustainable death wish

No one can escape death. But choices over how one's body is disposed of could either lessen or increase your carbon footprint.

News in Brief

  1. Audit office: Brexit 'divorce' bill could be billions higher
  2. MEPs urge better protection for journalists
  3. Dieselgate: MEPs back greater role for EU in car approvals
  4. European parliament adopts new organic farming rules
  5. EU granted protection to half million people in 2017
  6. Report: Facebook to carve 1.5bn users out of EU privacy law
  7. Greek court ruling permits migrants to travel to mainland
  8. Commonwealth summit hopes for trade boost after Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  2. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  3. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  4. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  5. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  6. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  7. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  10. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  11. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia

Latest News

  1. ECJ ruling set to end 10-year 'mouth tobacco' lobbying saga
  2. Whistleblowers, Syria and digital revolution This WEEK
  3. MEP friendship groups offer 'backdoor' for pariah regimes
  4. Macron and Merkel pledge euro reform
  5. Obscurity surrounds EU military fund's expert groups
  6. New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability
  7. Draghi to stay in secretive 'lobby' group
  8. Bulgaria offers lesson in tackling radical-right populists