Total Plugs Nigeria Gas Leak, Expects Elgin Cap Within Days

Total SA, Europe’s third-biggest oil company, stopped a natural-gas leak in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria yesterday and expects to halt another in the North Sea this week.

“The snubbing intervention which started on May 9 has been successful and has stopped the subsurface gas flow,” Total’s Nigerian unit said in a statement yesterday following seepage at the Ibewa 16 well in the OML 58 license. “The cement seal of the well is now being finalized.”

Snubbing is a practice in which small pipes are introduced into the well to pump heavy fluids in to stop gas flow and block off the reservoir with cement plugs, according to the company. Total holds a license for the OML 58 project in a joint venture with the state oil company, Nigerian National Petroleum Corp.

Total had shut gas plants and crude wells in Obite, in the country’s oil-rich southern delta, following the leak at one of its facilities, which probably followed an incident during drilling on March 20, the French producer has said.

The company doesn’t have a date for restarting output at the Nigerian facilities, spokesman Fred Ohwahwa said today.

Total is also grappling with how to stop another leak at a well in the Elgin field in the North Sea which began March 25.

The company, based in Paris, plans to stop seepage at the G4 well at Elgin within “a few days,” weather permitting, Chief Executive Officer Christophe de Margerie reiterated today at a conference in Adelaide. That leak will end up costing Total $300 million to $400 million in lost production, without taking into account money spent on plugging it, he said last week.

Output Cuts

In addition to the Nigerian and U.K. leaks and subsequent shutdowns, Total’s output will also be cut by an explosion on a gas pipeline operated by Yemen LNG, whose biggest shareholder is the French company. The pipeline has been closed since a bomb blast last month.

The leaks and halts have raised questions about whether Total can achieve long-term production growth targets. The explorer is sticking to a growth outlook of 2.5 percent a year on average through 2015, de Margerie said May 11.

A restart of Elgin at year-end would lead to unchanged output in 2012, Chief Financial Officer Patrick de la Chevardiere said April 27 during a conference call on first-quarter earnings in which he detailed the consequences of the leaks and production halts.

The company is losing the equivalent of about 50,000 barrels of oil a day at the Elgin and Franklin fields and the equivalent of 5,000 to 7,000 barrels in Yemen out of an overall share of 70,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day, de la Chevardiere said. Lost production in Nigeria due to the leak is the equivalent of about 20,000 barrels of oil a day.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc are the largest European oil companies.

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