Oil giant Total was fined a record £1.125 million on Tuesday after technical failures caused one of the North Sea’s biggest ever gas leaks.
The company admitted to the Aberdeen Sheriff Court that the gas leak at its Elgin platform was caused by its failure to meet some offshore installation regulations.
The gas leak occurred at Total’s Elgin platform in 2012. Production was shut down and all personnel on the platform were evacuated.
The leak went on for over seven weeks. It eventually stopped after lengthy well intervention work – which involved pumping heavy mud and cement into the well.
Elgin is a high pressure/high temperature gas and condensate field, which started production in 2001.
At the time of the leak the fields produced 120,000 barrels (19,000 m3/d) of oil equivalent per day – almost 7% of the UK’s gas production. At the peak of the incident over 200,000 cubic metres per day (7,100,000 cu ft/d) of gas was being released.
A thorough investigation led by Total revealed that the leak was caused by a type of stress corrosion which was unique to the G4 well and was fed from a so far non-producing chalk layer located approximately 1,000 meters above the original reservoir.
Elisabeth Proust, managing director of Total E&P UK, said after the case: “We regret the gas leak from the Elgin platform in 2012 and accept the fine handed down by the court.
“Following the incident Total carried out its own investigation to identify the causes of the incident and what can be done to prevent similar incidents in future.
“We also cooperated fully with the investigations carried out by DECC and the HSE. Furthermore, Total has shared the lessons learned from this incident widely across the industry and with the authorities.”
WWF Scotland director Lang Banks was quoted by the BBC as saying: “The gas leak at the Elgin platform endangered lives, cost the company millions and added to climate change.
“It’s therefore good to see a fine that reflects the seriousness of the incident.
“Hopefully the outcome of this case will send a clear message to the rest of the oil and gas industry to massively improve safety procedures.
“While it was a relief that the Elgin leak was able to be stopped, the fact it happened at all and that a potent greenhouse gas was able to spew out for nearly two months was unacceptable.”