News

    Natural Gas Leak Continues in North Sea

    Elgin platform, owned by the French firm Total, in undated photo received in London, March 30, 2012.
    Elgin platform, owned by the French firm Total, in undated photo received in London, March 30, 2012.
    Al Pessin

    An offshore drilling platform owned by the French firm Total is continuing to spew large amounts of natural gas into the surrounding sea and air, nearly a week after the leak started.

    The 238 people who worked on the platform off the east coast of Scotland were evacuated as soon as the leak started. As they left, the workers turned off the electrical power to reduce the chance of a spark igniting the gas, but they did not extinguish a flare that continues to burn atop a tower high above the rig.

    The flare is designed to harmlessly burn off natural gas that is released during the process of oil drilling. The gas is channeled through pipes to the flame. But gas is now escaping in an uncontrolled way, creating the potential for a huge explosion.

    Simon Boxall of Britain’s National Oceanography Center says gas dissipates quickly in the open air, but expresses concern gas getting trapped inside rooms within the huge drilling platform itself, which is stationed more than 200 kilometers offshore.

    "The concern about the rig blowing is that it has the potential for opening up some of the other wells in the area, because the rig actually serves five well heads, not just the one that has become damaged," he says.

    The environmental impact of such an explosion would be huge if oil were released from several wells, but, Boxall adds, the impact of the gas leak alone is localized and short-term.

    The rig owner, Total, which declined to provide an interview for this report, says the gas leak is not coming from the main well but a small underground pocket.

    According to Boxall, although the company is doing all it can for now, because it remains too dangerous to send workers to the platform, there is considerable uncertainty about how much gas that pocket might contain.

    “[It] could exhaust quite quickly, [but] the big word there is ‘could,’" he says. "And that ‘could’ could be days, it could be months, it could be years."

    Total is preparing to plug the leak and has backup plans to drill one or two new shafts to remove the gas safely if plugging efforts fail. All preparations could take six months or more.

    A steadfast reminder
    For environmental activists, even though this incident isn't yet particularly serious, it serves as a reminder of the dangers of offshore drilling.

    Charlie Kronick, senior climate advisor to Greenpeace UK, says those dangers will become more serious as companies seek oil and gas reserves in increasingly remote northern waters.

    “Even in the UK, which has been widely held up as having the Gold Standard for offshore operations, these kinds of accidents happen consistently and regularly," he says. "As you get into more and more extreme environments, these kinds of accidents are going to continue to happen, and they’re going to happen more often because of those extreme environments.”

    The leak has caused an 8 percent drop in the value of Total’s stock, and a slight increase in the price of oil.

    Experts say shutting down the platform and reducing operations at others nearby is counteracting the increase in global supply from the resumption of Libya’s oil exports.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: kd benny
    March 31, 2012 2:22 PM
    hope this incident could be solved well as soon as possible.........

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora