Total, Transocean drilling relief well to stem Elgin gas leak

Total UK Ltd. said contractor Transocean Ltd. has started drilling a relief well to stop a natural gas leak from well G4 on the Elgin platform in the North Sea, while workers continue to prepare for a well-control operation to stop the leak on the platform.

The latest scientific flights, modeling, and platform visits confirmed a decrease in the leak rate to about one third of the initial estimate of 200,000 cu m/day, which was made during the first days of the leak.

Total stopped production on Elgin and Franklin gas fields following a Mar. 25 gas leak on the wellhead platform 240 km east of Aberdeen, Total said. Crisis management teams were mobilized in Aberdeen and Paris. No injuries were reported, and 238 people were evacuated (OGJ Online, Mar. 27, 2012).

On Apr. 18, Transocean’s Sedco 714 semisubmersible drilling rig spudded the relief well, which is considered a backup to the G4 kill operation. The Sedco 714 is 2 km east of the Elgin complex in 90 m of water. UK authorities granted all necessary approvals before drilling started.

Rowan Cos. Inc.’s Gorilla V jack up is suspending operations on nearby West Franklin field and will be available to be deployed by early May, Total said. The Gorilla V will drill a backup relief well if needed.

In parallel, plans are being finalized for the positioning of the pumping vessel required for the well intervention alongside the Elgin complex. The West Phoenix semi is on standby just outside a 2 nautical mile Elgin exclusion zone.

Total has mobilized the Skandi Aker intervention vessel, currently in the Scottish port of Peterhead, which will also be used to support the well intervention operation.

Total and Wild Well Control teams made two trips via helicopter to the Elgin platform this week.

Workers are positioning equipment and ensuring the platform systems required to support the intervention are functional.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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