"Well from Hell" Brewing In North Sea


Following in the footsteps of last year's oil leak in the North Sea off Aberdeen, Scotland, a massive explosive gas cloud has accumulated this week due to a platform leak with immense back-pressure, and in accordance with the Zeta's prediction for this region:

"This region is neither a plate border nor fault line. But it does lie in the area destined to be pulled down during the plate movements preceding the pole shift and certainly during the pole shift itself. We have predicted that Ireland, Scotland, and Wales will be pulled down to a greater extent than England herself.

"What happens when plates are bent in this way, pulled down because the plate border in the mid-Atlantic has weakened, a void on one side of this plate border? Rock layers bend, and snap, and certainly destabilize anything like an oil pipeline that expects a smooth firm surface. A pipeline that lacks support will itself fracture, fitting pulling apart, and there you have a leak. More of this will certainly occur."  ZetaTalk

March 27, 2012


Explosive gas cloud spewing from leaking 'well from hell' off British coast is growing and could take six months to stop, experts warn:

-  A four-mile exclusion zone has been set up around the Elgin Total platform
-  Texan 'Hellfighters' who tackled the Deepwater Horizon disaster have reportedly been called in
-  Shell has also pulled out workers from nearby rigs
-  The leak could take six months to fix because of the huge pressure produced by the well below the North Sea

A giant explosive cloud hanging over a North Sea rig could take six months to clear and may expand towards the Scottish coast, it was warned today.

The huge underwater reservoir tapped by oil giant Total's Elgin platform, which sits 150 miles from Aberdeen, is known as the 'well from hell' because it is so difficult to plug.

An exclusion zone stretching up to four miles has been set up around the platform because it could explode.

The exact source of the leak is still a mystery but it is escaping out of the platform, which has pumped gas and oil to Britain for the past decade.

Total say they are considering a drilling relief well to divert the gas, which would be a safe way to end the crisis, but it could take up to six months.

The faster and riskier alternative of sending engineers onto the rig to 'kill' the leak is also on the table, but it would mean having workers at the centre of a potential disaster zone.

Danger: A leak from the Elgin rig, pictured, has led to more than 300 workers being evacuated from that and surrounding oil and gas platforms


Total boss David Hainsworth said: 'The well itself could die on its own. This is the dream option.

'There are two options for intervening. One is drilling a relief well which could take about six months. The other is a platform intervention to kill the well.'

In the last two days hundreds of workers have also been evacuated off or away from the Elgin Total platform, which stands 150 miles from the Aberdeen coast.

Coastguards have today demanded shipping stays at least two miles away, planes must keep a distance of three miles, while rigs up to four miles away are being emptied in case they get caught up in any explosion.

'This is the well from hell,' said Frederic Hauge, head of Bellona, a leading Norwegian group that closely monitors the oil industry.

'This problem is out of control and is only going to get bigger and bigger,' he added, saying the high pressure of the undersea reservoirs in the North Sea field made it especially hard to shut off.

It is also being reported the team of Texan 'Hellfighters' who battled the Deepwater Horizon disaster in April 2010, which killed 11 and injured 16, is being brought to Scotland by Total to prevent or tackle a blast.

The incident in the Gulf of Mexico shocked the world and cost oil giant BP almost £5 billion in reparations, and anything on that scale would be unprecedented in Britain.

Fears have risen because the Total rig is now surrounded by a giant gas cloud, with a sheen of liquid gas on the water - a tell-tale sign there is a large leak.

Total's shares dived about five percent today as it scrambled to present a strategy to deal with the leak.

David Hainsworth, health, safety and environment manager for the company, told the Good Morning Scotland programme that there are risks around the situation.

He said: 'The gas is flammable but the platform power was turned off to minimise risk of ignition, but clearly there is a risk.

'We have taken away a series of risks but there is always a possibility, it's low but you never say never.

'The best-case scenario is that the gas in this area is not very productive and it dies off in the coming days and weeks.

'At the moment there is no real evolution of the sheen on the sea but if that was to change - and it's monitored on a daily basis - then the exclusion zone may be increased, but at the moment it will probably stay the same.'

British officials said the gas, containing poisonous hydrogen sulphide - familiar from the smell of rotten eggs - should disperse in the atmosphere. But it poses a risk to anyone close to the source, making capping the well complex.

Poison in the gas could also threaten fish and other marine life nearby, although the rate at which it dissipates in air and water meant it was not a significant threat to people on land.

On Sunday all 238 staff were evacuated from the Elgin platform.

Shell has now removed 85 workers from its Shearwater platform and the nearby Noble Hans Deul drilling rig while the nearby leak is found and stopped, taking the total evacuated from the area to 323.

Drilling operations on its Noble Hans Deul rig have been suspended and the wells have been left in a safe state, Shell said.

'While the move is purely precautionary and primarily driven by the prevailing weather conditions, and both facilities remain operational, it has been decided to reduce numbers to a more manageable level until the full situation surrounding the Elgin leak has been established,' a Shell spokesman added.

They are removing 52 workers from Shearwater, leaving 38 on board, while 33 are being taken off the Hans Deul, leaving 79.

Evidence of the leak is believed to have emerged a few hours after staff had completed the closure of a well on Sunday.

But pressure began building up in the outer layers of the well, which led to bubbling on the surface of the sea.

Total says it still does not know the cause of the leak and is taking 'all possible measures' to bring it under control.

But oil insiders say the gas leak on the Elgin platform is a ‘major, major problem’ and it is feared it could be coming directly from the reservoir and would be difficult to stop.

Investigators from Oil Spill Response (OSRL) yesterday carried out two aerial surveillance flights to assess the situation and two further flights are planned today.

There have been no reports of any injuries.

March 28


Fears were growing today that a single spark could lead to a repeat of Britain's deadliest rig disaster.

A huge gas leak at a platform off the British coast may lead to an explosion like that seen in the Piper Alpha disaster in 1988, it is claimed.

Total evacuated all 238 workers from its Elgin platform in the North Sea after the potentially disastrous discovery on Sunday.

An exclusion zone for ships and aircraft was set up around the evacuated rig in an attempt to prevent an explosion.

One spark could ignite the gas cloud – so big it can be seen eight miles away – above the platform.  Experts who admitted they still do not know the exact location of the leak or how much gas is emerging say it could take six months to fix.

Jake Molloy, regional organiser of the RMT union, said: ‘If the gas were to find an ignition source, this could lead to the same outcome as Piper Alpha.'

He added: 'Total acted very swiftly in getting everyone off but the potential still exists for catastrophic devastation.

'If the gas cloud somehow finds an ignition source we could be looking at complete destruction.

'The emergency operation in the North Sea is unprecedented.'

A flare used to burn excess hydrocarbon gases that rigs do not use or capture has been alight for three days on the Elgin rig.

Operator Total says the wind is forecast to blow the gas plume in the opposite direction to the flare for the next five or six days, but admitted it could take up to six months to drill a relief well to stop the leak.

David Hainsworth, health, safety and environment manager for Total Exploration and Production UK, told BBC Newsnight Scotland: 'The flare is still alight on the main production platform. However, the wind is blowing the gas plume in the opposite direction away from this flare.

'We know the weather forecast is such that the wind direction remains the same for the following five to six days and we’re evaluating options to extinguish this flare.'

The only vessels inside the zone are a firefighting ship and a specialist ship carrying a remotely operated seabed scanner vehicle. Only aircraft from parent company Total have been near the platform, which is 149 miles off Aberdeen.

The planes are monitoring a sheen in the water close to the rig formed by 20 tons of condensate – which emerges as airborne gas, pumped into the sky by the leak, sinks onto the sea. The leak is probably on the rig’s submerged welldeck.

The huge underwater reservoir tapped by oil giant Total's Elgin platform, which sits 149 miles from Aberdeen, is known as the 'well from hell' because it is so difficult to plug.

Aberdeen Coastguard has set a two-mile exclusion zone around the rig for ships and fishermen have been warned. Oil workers as far as four miles away have been flown to safety and a three-mile no-fly zone created amid fears of a blast.

A team of Texan ‘hellfighters’, who worked on 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, have been flown in to help.

The incident in the Gulf of Mexico shocked the world and cost oil giant BP almost £5 billion in reparations, and anything on that scale would be unprecedented in Britain.

At the Elgin platform last night, here was little wind to disperse the gas plume and poisonous gas condensate had spread across the sea surrounding the rig.

Mr Hainsworth said there are two options for stopping the leak; drilling a relief well parallel to Elgin’s existing well to would draw gas off.  He added: ‘The other is a platform intervention to kill the well. This would be a faster option.’

This would mean pumping mud into the well to suppress the flow of gas. Asked about the threat of an explosion, Mr Hainsworth said: ‘Clearly there is a risk of ignition – at any time where you have flammable gas mixed in the atmosphere with air there is a risk of ignition.'

‘When the leak was found, we cut off all the power, which takes away a lot of the ignition sources.The gas leak is thought to stem from a high-pressure gas reserve located 2.8 miles below the sea.

Gas supplies flowing through the Bacton terminal in Norfolk have fallen from 15 million cubic metres to six million cubic metres because of the Total leak and the company’s share price collapsed by 7 per cent yesterday.

However, a Total spokesman said: ‘Long-term the market will respond and we can always get gas from other places, like St Fergus in Peterhead, or Teeside. We don’t foresee this causing any issue.’

The alarm was raised by workers just after noon on Sunday after mud sprayed out onto the wellhead platform, followed by escaped gas.

Helicopters carried more than 200 workers to safety between 1pm and 2pm and by midnight the remaining 19 staff were removed.

Total brought in a remotely operated vehicle to scan the seabed for signs of a subsea leak as well as two ships able to pump seawater to extinguish any fire, and a fire- fighting Hercules plane is on standby at East Midlands airport.

See also:   No.10 fuels petrol panic: Rush to fill up as drivers are urged to prepare for shortages


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Comment by Howard on March 29, 2012 at 9:06pm

March 29 Update -

"Operators of a North Sea platform say they have found the source of a gas leak which forced the  -evacuation of hundreds of offshore workers.

"All 238 workers were taken off Total's Elgin PUQ platform, about 150 miles off the coast of Aberdeen, when the leak was discovered on Sunday.

"Oil company Total said the gas is coming from a rock formation 4,000 metres below the seabed, underneath the Elgin platform. It is then escaping into the atmosphere from a leak on the platform at the top of the well, roughly 25 metres above sea level.

"The firm said there is no subsea leak causing gas to bubble into the water, and it insisted that the gas is not toxic. A spokesman for Total said the gas is entering a pipeline at a depth of 4,000 metres. It is then said to be leaking into the atmosphere above sea level at the "deck level of the wellhead platform".

"The spokesman said: "The leak is actually on the platform at the well head - at the top of the well. It's not subsea. There's no gas bubbling into the sea. It's not toxic gas. It's natural gas."


Comment by KM on March 29, 2012 at 3:33am
Comment by Howard on March 29, 2012 at 12:38am

March 28 Update -

"Flammable methane gas continued to leak on Wednesday from the abandoned platform, 150 miles east of Aberdeen, as experts warned the gas cloud - just 120 yards from a flare which is still burning - was an "explosion waiting to happen".

Total admitted the gas could ignite but insisted there was only a "low" risk because the wind was blowing the gas cloud away from the flare.

Total said it was still considering drilling a relief well to stop the leak, an option that could take more than six months. Analysts at RBC Capital Markets said that the relief well could cost Total $200m.

John Shanks, of engineering consultancy RiserTec, said: "If gas continues to leak at a steady or increased rate over a sustained period of time, the platform could become an explosion waiting to happen."

David Hainsworth, Total's safety manager, said the flare was lit at the time the leak was discovered on Sunday as a deliberate safety measure to burn off high pressure gas from containers within the Elgin processing platform.

The gas had been burnt but small quantities of liquid were still evaporating from the storage vessels. The valves could not now be shut to stop the release but it should run out naturally, he said.

"We believe the flame is diminishing but there is a possibility it could carry on for several days. There is a risk of ignition if the wind changes and the plume is at the right concentration but our view is that is a low risk. The gas cloud is blowing away from the platform."  Source

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