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Marine pollution specialist: 'Gas leak could harm marine life'

Two-mile exclusion zone has been set up around the offshore platform which has been evacuated after a gas leak. Credit: TOTAL E&P UK Ltd/PA Wire

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".


Total considering drilling relief well

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.

There are two options for intervening. One is drilling a relief well which could take about six months. The other is a platform intervention to kill the well...This would be a faster option. We expect to decide on a plan in the coming days.

– David Hainsworth, health, safety and environment manager, Total E&P UK


Total: gas leak could go on for a 'significant period'

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:

The gas is flammable but the platform power was turned off to minimise risk of ignition, but clearly there is a risk. We have taken away a series of risks but there is always a possibility, it's low but you never say never. The best-case scenario is that the gas in this area is not very productive and it dies off in the coming days and weeks. At the moment there is no real evolution of the sheen on the sea but if that was to change - and it's monitored on a daily basis - then the exclusion zone may be increased, but at the moment it will probably stay the same.

– DAVID HAINSWORTH, Health, Safety and Environment Manager, Total E&P UK

Evacuation from three North Sea oil platforms

Elgin PUQ platform in the North Sea Credit: STV

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.

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