The mass gas leak in the North Sea off the eastern shore of Scotland was known to the owner, French energy giant Total, for a full month before evacuation! It’s hard to believe such callousness exists.
It wasn’t until the rig had become engulfed in a cloud of deadly and volatile gas that workers were notified and evacuated by Total.
Philippe Guys, chief of Total’s UK exploration group, stated in an Aberdeen news conference:
On February 25 we observed irregular pressure in the annuli [the space between the wellbore and its metal casing deep below the seabed.]
We very quickly moved to kill the annuli pressure by pumping it full with high density mud. During this process, on March 25, we observed a sudden pressure increase followed by an escape of mud, then gas.
The newspaper, The Sun, is carrying a photo of the leak here.
The story keeps changing. When it first broke, evacuated workers reported that the sea was “boiling and bubbling”, a clear indication that the leak came from “pockets under the sea bed”. Another tale has it that Total told workers concerned about safety that it wasn’t possible for a leak to happen. Now, they’re saying that the leak existed for a month before anyone was evacuated and that it’s on board the platform!
And now that they’re saying the leak is only on the platform—a 100% human-made environment—they’re saying that there was no human error involved in it!
So what were the workers seeing? And how did the leak on board the platform develop? Was it by god’s hand?
And why should be believe that a massive spill of millions of tons of extremely toxic and readily explosive gas is not a huge risk to the environment and life?
The only thing we can be sure about right now is that Total is controlling this story. We are learning very little beyond what they want us to know. It seems that they’ll have permission to kill the well shortly, if they don’t have it now. But even that begs the question: Why do they need to kill a well that they’d abandoned a year ago? The Elgin was not producing at the time of the accident—whatever that accident actually was.
We know only two things: Total has been utterly callous in its management of the Elgin well, and we know virtually nothing about how it happened, or even the source of the gas. The only bit of genuinely good news is that the flare, which presented the risk of an Armageddon-like explosion, is now out. Thank heaven for one favor!