Gas flare at oil platform 'extinguishes itself'

Elgin platform The leak at the Elgin platform, 150 miles off Aberdeen, has been ongoing since Sunday

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The flare on the crippled North Sea oil platform at the centre of a gas leak has extinguished itself, the oil company Total has confirmed.

All workers had been removed from the Elgin installation, 150 miles off Aberdeen, earlier in the week.

The company said the evidence that the flame was out came from flights and from vessels close to the exclusion zone.

The leak has been ongoing since last Sunday.

A Total spokesman said: "We received the first indication that the flare may be out at 12:07 yesterday from our first surveillance flight of the day.

"The news was then reaffirmed at 16.36 following our second flight of the day.

"We received what we consider final confirmation at 08.20 this morning, when our sea vessels on location reported no further flare activity through the night."

Relief well

Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "Now that the flare is no longer burning, a key factor relating to this incident has hopefully now been removed from calculations.

"However, we will continue to work through the Government Interest Group to assist Total in addressing the remaining risks as effectively as possible and bring forward an effective, safe solution."

He added: "The Scottish government recognises Total's ongoing surveillance of the Elgin Platform throughout the incident and we ask that new developments continue to be shared.

"We remain in close contact with Total, DECC, Marine Coastguard Agency and Health and Safety Executive during this time and will continue to monitor the environmental situation in the surrounding area."

On Friday, Total UK's managing director Phillipe Guys said the company had not found any evidence of human error.

The company believes the leak is coming from a rock formation above the main reservoir, at a depth of 4,000m.

It had insisted there was no risk the flare would ignite the gas cloud beneath the platform.

Greenpeace has expressed deep concern about the wider implications of the gas leak in the North Sea.

The environmental group's executive director John Sauven said it showed the risks of other ventures in the world's oceans.

Total is currently considering options including drilling a relief well, which could take months.

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