Total Says Stopping Elgin Leak From Platform ‘Relatively Easy’

Total SA, Europe’s third-largest oil company, said it doesn’t expect difficulties in halting a natural-gas leak at its Elgin platform in the U.K. North Sea using a so-called top-kill method.

“It should be a relatively easy job” to stop gas escaping by pumping mud into the well from the platform, Michel Hourcard, the company’s senior vice president for exploration an production, said today on a conference call. Total still plans to drill two relief wells at the same time, he said.

Gas has been escaping from an abandoned well, about 240 kilometers (150 miles) east of Aberdeen, Scotland, since March 25. While the cause is still being investigated, Total said March 30 the fuel is probably leaking above water and the source is a rock formation above the producing reservoir of the field.

The operation may cost the Paris-based company about $1.5 million a day once drilling begins, not including $1.5 million net income lost daily from halted production, Chief Financial Officer Patrick de la Chevardiere said on the call.

“There will be no top kill if the well contract people are not feeling safe,” de la Chevardiere said. The company needs authorizations before workers can go to Elgin, he said.

About 200,000 cubic meters of gas a day are being released from the well, according to estimates from the company. A flare on the platform, left burning when the site was evacuated, extinguished itself on March 31. Total said last week that a relief well may take six months to drill.

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