Several days after the discovery of a leak from a french energy company total platform in the north sea off scotland, no solution is in sight. Environmentalists assume that the mixture contains toxic sulfur compounds. Ships were only allowed to approach within two nautical miles due to the danger of explosion, and aircraft had to keep a distance of three miles.
The operating company did not have a specific plan of action wednesday. The company would not comment on the composition of the escaping gas or the exact location of the leak. "No decisions have been made yet," said a spokesman in aberdeen. Meanwhile, scottish environment minister richard lochhead demanded "maximum transparency" from total and the british government in london.
It is not impossible that the gas well will dry up by itself, it said at total. The british energy secretary charles hendry spoke of an "abandoned well. The leak had occurred when workers tried to keep the well, which had already been exploited almost to the end, open for the long term. So far, about 20 tons of gas have leaked, and a 4.8 square kilometer film of gas has formed on the surface of the sea, the company said.
Experts from all areas of the group discussed how to get a grip on the situation. If the well does not dry up, the borehole could be filled with heavy mud. Experts call this a "kill. A relief well would be safer, but this can take up to six months to complete.
Total deployed the "highland fortress" surveillance ship on wednesday, a spokesman reported. The ship also has a remote-controlled mini-submarine that can be used to take underwater pictures. However, this technology has not yet been used.
On sunday, the leak at the gas platform 240 kilometers east of the city of aberdeen had been noticed. The 238 workers were immediately brought to safety. The following day, the shell company cleared two neighboring platforms.
The effects on the environment are controversial. The gas is a flammable, potentially explosive hydrocarbon compound, the total spokesman said. Environmental experts believe it also contains highly toxic sulfur compounds. "Hydrogen sulfide kills all life," peter lutter of the environmental protection organization WWF told the german press agency.
British expert martin preston from the university of liverpool, on the other hand, considers the risk to be manageable. "We don't have the dimensions here that we had two years ago in the gulf of mexico," he told the BBC. The gas is much lighter and more volatile than the oil in the USA. "Nevertheless, one must not overlook possible effects on marine life."
The platform workers had left a flame burning when they left the island on sunday, which is used to burn off gas. This was done on purpose, said the total spokesman. The flame does not currently pose a danger. The gas cloud and the gas carpet on the sea were driven in the opposite direction by the west wind. According to forecasts, the wind direction will not change in the next five to six days.