NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Unite union wants wider exclusion zone round North Sea Elgin gas leak

Elgin platform [Pic: Greenpeace]
Image caption The company described the Elgin platform situation as "serious but stable"

An offshore workers union has again called for the exclusion zone around the crippled Elgin platform in the North Sea to be extended.

Unite said the three-mile zone should be increased to five miles.

It said this would require a further 200 workers being withdrawn from neighbouring installations.

The union has also expressed "deep concern" about crews still being deployed within the current three-mile zone.

Total has said the leak at its Elgin platform, 150 miles off Aberdeen, is coming from a rock formation above the main reservoir, at a depth of 4,000m.

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

Greenpeace has questioned industry claims about North Sea safety.

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

He said: "The industry consistently says that North Sea drilling is particularly safe and that spills can't happen here.

"Yet now we can see all too clearly that serious leaks can happen anywhere, and are extremely difficult to deal with.

"This incident shows us that if the oil and gas industry can't contain leaks in supposedly less risky places like the North Sea then there's no way they should be allowed to drill in fragile and high risk places like the Arctic."

Total said the main gas producing reservoir for the installation, situated at a depth of 5,500m, had been plugged for more than a year.

The firm said it was difficult to estimate the volume of gas leaking into the well.

The flare is still burning on the North Sea platform.

It is regarded as too dangerous to return to the Elgin platform to extinguish it.

However, the company insists there is still no risk the flare will ignite the gas cloud beneath the platform.

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

Meanwhile, surveillance flights will continue to monitor a sheen of gas condensate spreading several miles across the surface of the North Sea.

Exclusion zones have been put in place around the platform.

All 238 workers were removed from the Elgin installation and the nearby Rowan Viking drilling rig by helicopter on Sunday.

Shell has also removed nearby personnel.

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