Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gas Well Blowout in the North Sea

On March 26, Total reported a gas leak that forced them to evacuate more than 200 workers from a production platform in the Elgin field of the central North Sea, about 150 miles east of Aberdeen, Scotland.  It soon became clear they had an uncontrolled blowout of natural gas and liquid gas condensate, a potentially explosive situation that has caused other companies to evacuate and shut down operations at neighboring facilities miles away from Totals' Elgin platform.  The Oil Drum has compiled excellent information about this serious ongoing incident.  Hopefully the failed well will collapse on itself ("bridge over") and shut off the high-temperature, high-pressure flow of gas from this deep reservoir.  Otherwise, it may continue to flow and pose an extreme fire and explosion hazard until a relief well can be drilled, which could take a couple of months.

Map showing location of Elgin platform in North Sea, site of ongoing gas well blowout.
 This leak is mostly natural gas escaping into the atmosphere at sea level -- something we can't see on satellite imagery -- but a small slick of liquid gas condensate has also been reported at the site.  This Envisat ASAR radar satellite image, taken yesterday at about 9:23 pm local time, shows a patchy slick covering about 89 square kilometers (34 square miles).  The platform itself appears as a very bright spot on the radar image but it's covered up by our yellow rig icon marking the location:

Detail from satellite radar image taken March 27, 2012, showing small slick (probably natural gas condensate) apparently originating from gas well blowout at Total's Elgin platform.  Envisat ASAR image courtesy European Space Agency.

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