Gas leak 'permanently plugged soon'

Work to permanently secure a well at a North Sea oil platform after a massive gas leak is expected to be completed by mid-September, according to its operators.

The Elgin platform, around 150 miles (241km) from Aberdeen, was evacuated of all 238 workers when it started leaking gas in March, as were some sites nearby.

The leak was only stopped on May 15 with a well-intervention operation which pumped heavy mud and cement into the underwater well.

Operator Total said the well has remained "stable" and "significant" progress has been made towards a permanent solution.

It said in a statement: "Total and its contractors have now restarted the essential safety and support systems on board the Elgin complex and the adjacent Rowan Viking drilling rig.

"The key stage of putting cement plugs in place to permanently secure the well is ongoing and expected to be completed by mid-September.

"The overall environmental impact of the incident has been minimal as the majority of the condensate (gas) released evaporated, while the rest falling to sea and adding to the surface sheen also evaporated or dispersed completely within days."

Total also said it continues to work with all appropriate bodies to assess and monitor any impact on the environment, and with the investigators looking into the cause of the leak.

Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland, said: "It is welcome news that work to permanently secure the well will be completed soon, however the fact a leak happened at all and that a potent greenhouse gas spewed out for nearly two months is not good news for the environment.

"This was the second serious leak in the North Sea within the past two years and underlines the risks of the offshore oil industry even in the well-known waters around Scotland. We should be trying to give up our addiction to oil and gas, and not seeking it out in more difficult places with the risks to the environment that poses when things go wrong."