Total Says Flare Poses No Danger to Stricken North Sea Platform

Total SA (FP) said a flare on its evacuated Elgin platform in the North Sea is “faint and decreasing” and poses no danger of igniting gas that’s leaking from a damaged well.

The flare is 100 meters (328 feet) away from the leak on the well-head platform, Total spokesman Tony Peakin said today by phone from Aberdeen, Scotland. The cloud formed by the leak is at sea level, below the flare’s 180-meter tower, and the wind is blowing the gas away from the platform, he said.

The platform was evacuated after a blow-out on March 25 during an operation to abandon a well. Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) shut the neighboring Shearwater field yesterday to guard against the risk of explosion. Total, France’s largest oil company, may need to drill an emergency well to intercept and plug the damaged well, an operation that could take six months.

Total has flown in Wild Well Control Inc. to help battle the leak and stopped work at a neighboring field to free up a rig to drill a relief well. The Elgin-Franklin fields, about 140 miles (225 kilometers) east of Aberdeen in Scotland, supply about 15 percent of the Forties blend, one of the crudes used to price the Brent benchmark for more than half the world’s oil.

A remote controlled submarine arrived at Elgin at 11 p.m. yesterday to begin an assessment of the rig, Peakin said.

The well causing the leak remained plugged and gas is coming from a smaller reservoir nearer the surface, David Hainsworth, a health, safety and environment manager at Total, said yesterday, adding the leak may exhaust itself naturally.

Relief Well

BP Plc (BP/) took five months to drill a relief well to permanently plug the blowout that leaked oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days in 2010 after an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 workers. The worst accident in U.K. waters was on the Piper Alpha platform in 1988 that killed 167.

Total fell as much as 3.4 percent to 37.26 euros in Paris today after dropping the most since December 2008 yesterday. The shares recovered to 38.16 euros at 9:59 a.m. local time.

The Elgin-Franklin fields produced a daily average of 61,386 barrels of condensate in November, according to the most recent government data. That’s about 15 percent of all Forties shipments that month, loading data show. Shareholders in both fields include Eni SpA (ENI), BG Group Plc (BG/), EON AG (EOAN), Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), Chevron Corp (CVX), Dyas AS and Summit Petroleum Ltd.

Elgin produces 5.5 million cubic meters of gas a day and Franklin 7.8 million cubic meters, according to Total.

Condensate from the fields is exported through the Forties pipeline to Scotland’s Kinneil terminal. Gas is pumped via BP Plc’s Unity Riser into the Bacton Seal terminal in eastern England, operated by Shell, according to Total’s website.

North Sea Grades

Forties (EUCSFORT) is one of four North Sea oil grades that make up the Dated Brent (EUCRBRDT) benchmark, which is used to price crude from the Middle East, Africa and Russia. The other blends are Ekofisk, Brent and Oseberg.

The Elgin deposit, started in 2001, has a temperature of about 200 degrees Celsius (392 degrees Fahrenheit), compared with about 90 degrees at other North Sea deposits. Pressure is almost four times that at similar fields, according to Total.

A remotely-operated submarine will be used at the site, O’Neill said. No divers have yet been deployed and it’s not clear when the submarine will arrive at Elgin.

Shell carried out a “partial evacuation” of staff from its Shearwater oil and gas field as precaution, Ross Whittam, a Shell spokesman, said yesterday by telephone from London. Shearwater is about 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) from Elgin. Output from the Scoter and Starling fields, which passes through the Shearwater platform, has also stopped.

Drilling operations at the Noble Hans Duel drilling rig have also been suspended as a precaution, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Farey in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at

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