A Daily news digest by Jasper van Santen

Upcoming Disaster… Not in the News – Total Weighs Options As Explosion Fears Mount – SPIEGEL ONLINE

In News on March 30, 2012 at 07:33

Photo Gallery: The Elgin Gas Emergency

North Sea Gas Leak: Total Weighs Options As Explosion Fears Mount 

The weather over the North Sea was somewhat rough. What’s more, the crew of the small, twin-engine plane was determined to keep its distance from the crisis zone. On Wednesday, a small group of environmental activists boarded the plane to inspect the Elgin platform leaking gas. But given their distance from it, they could only see what their zoom lenses allowed.

Kai Britt, an employee for the German branch of Greenpeace, told SPIEGEL ONLINE that people weren’t allowed to get any closer than five kilometers (three miles) from the platform, from which 238 workers have already been evacuated. He was one of four environmentalists who flew from the northern German city of Hamburg, over the western Danish port city of Esbjerg and to the spot 240 kilometers (150 miles) off the eastern coast of Scotland where the offshore platform lies. Britt says that even the four supply ships that could be seen near the Elgin from the plane kept out of the exclusion zone. “They’re scared that the thing will blow up around them,” he said.

The environmentalist didn’t bring back any particularly spectacular photographs from their flight. But the group’s observations point to the helplessness that has apparently gripped senior officials at Total, the platform’s French owner, since the leak was discovered on Sunday. Although the company finally succeeded in pinpointing the source of the high-pressure leak, it is still far from being in a position to plug it in a reliable way. Some experts are worried about the gas flame in the stack above the platform, which usually burns excess gas. Despite Total’s statements to the contrary, the flame is still burning. If worse comes to worst, rising gas clouds could spark a gigantic explosion.


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