Total prepares parallel operations to stop Elgin gas leak

A flare on the Elgin platform in the UK North Sea extinguished itself Mar. 31, and Total SA outlined plans to stop the gas leak by boarding the platform to control the well while also drilling a relief well and a backup relief well.

Before evacuating the platform last month, workers had started the flare to burn off excess gas. Production was shut in from Elgin, Franklin, and West Franklin natural gas and condensate fields following a Mar. 25 gas leak on the wellhead platform on Elgin field 240 km east of Aberdeen.

No injuries were reported; 238 people were evacuated (OGJ Online, Mar. 27, 2012).

One response plan involves workers pumping mud into the well using a floating support vessel. Total is working with the UK Health and Safety Executive to agree to conditions under which regaining access to the Elgin platform can be undertaken for the well-control operation.

Total chartered a boat and a rig with dynamic positioning capabilities for the mud pumping.

Meanwhile, Total already mobilized two rigs to drill the relief well and backup relief well. Both rigs will move to Elgin after final suspension of their current operations. Both rigs already are working for Total.

The Sedco 714 semisubmersible currently is drilling on Fettercairn field north of Elgin. Transocean Ltd. owns and operates Sedco 714.

The second rig is a jack up owned by Rowan Cos. Inc. The Gorilla V currently is drilling on West Franklin field. Total said it also is considering additional drilling rigs to maintain the widest possible options available for the response.

Two support vessels also are standing by. One is a vessel to deploy remote-operated vehicles for underwater inspections in the vicinity of the Elgin platform. A second vessel is on standby to conduct seabed surveys of possible sites for relief wells.

Both vessels currently await optimum sea conditions before they can be deployed. Meanwhile, Total continues to monitor Elgin platform by aircraft and with firefighting vessels.

Elgin and Franklin are high-pressure, high-temperature gas and condensate fields in the North Sea’s Central Graben area. Total E&P UK owns 46.17% and operates both fields. Its share of production was around 60,000 boe/d in 2011.

The Elgin-Franklin complex involves two wellhead platforms, one on Elgin and one on Franklin along with a production-utilities-quarters (PUQ) platform. The PUQ is on Elgin field and is linked to the Elgin wellhead platform by a 90-m bridge.

Britain’s Department of Energy and Climate Change convened a government regulators’ group meeting to ensure the government’s response “is coherent and joined up.” DECC said the group plans to meet regularly to consider Total’s actions and the government’s response to the incident.

Contact Paula Dittrick at

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