Dr Martin Preston, marine pollution specialist and research fellow at the University of Liverpool has said that a gas leak at one of operator Total's offshore platform could harm marine life. Dr Preston said that the process to drill a relief well may take months. He said:
"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".
Jake Malloy, Regional Organiser of the OILC Union, has said that the slightest spark could trigger a massive explosion at the Elgin PUQ rig in the North Sea. He said that engineers were dealing with an unprecedented situation since gas is leaking from outside the casing walls.
Total UK plans to use a remotely-controlled submarine to locate the source of the gas leak at its Elgin PUQ oil platform in the North Sea. It has drafted in experts from around the world to help.
Total has flown in 10-20 specialist engineers to tackle the leak and enlisted the services of Wild Well Control, which was heavily involved in the BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
Total UK is considering all options including drilling a relief well to stem a massive gas leak at its Elgin PUQ oil rig in the North Sea, which could take six months, a spokesman told Reuters on Tuesday.
A gas cloud has encircled the Elgin PUQ platform and can be seen from miles away, STV reports. There is also a visible sheen on the water measuring six nautical miles (seven miles) in length and is caused by gas condensing.
David Hainsworth of Total E&P UK, which operates the Elgin PUQ oil rig, admitted that the release of gas could go on "for a significant period of time". He said:
Aerial footage of Total's Elgin PUQ oil rig in the North Sea before the recent gas leak.
Jake Molloy, Regional Organiser of the OILC union, told STV on Monday that if reports of gas bubbling up through the water under the platform are true then the situation is likely to be "very volatile".
He said there may be a risk of explosions and of the poisonous gas hydrogen sulphide, although added that the evacuation had been quick and efficient.
Three oil platforms have been evacuated after a gas leak was detected at Total's Elgin PUQ platform on Sunday. All staff have now been evacuated from the Elgin platform.
Shell has evacuated 85 staff from its nearby Shearwater and Noble Hans Deul rigs as a "precautionary measure". It leaves a workforce of 117 people at the two rigs.
Aberdeen Coastguard said an exclusion zone of two nautical miles (2.3 miles) around Elgin has been set up, with ships and aircraft ordered to stay away from the area.