Total gas leak: Fish tests to reveal full extent of gas leak toxins

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THE results of tests on the first samples of fish recovered from the North Sea in the vicinity of the uncontrolled Elgin gas leak could be made public as early as today.

Scientists from the government’s marine laboratory in Aberdeen have begun studying samples of a range of species of fish and prawns for traces of hydrocarbon contamination.

Plans to 'kill' troublesome well are in motion. Picture: Getty

Plans to 'kill' troublesome well are in motion. Picture: Getty

The fish samples, together with water and sediment samples, were taken from the sea near Total’s Elgin platform at the weekend.

The results of the fish sample tests are expected to be revealed before the tests on the water and sediment samples are make known later in the week.

Richard Lochhead, the Scottish environment minister, said last week that the evidence indicated that the impact of the gas leak on the marine environment has been minimal so far.

Meanwhile, the first specialist equipment which is set to be deployed in the operation to “kill” the rogue G4 well by pumping high pressure mud into the reservoir has arrived at the Aberdeen facilities of the French energy giant.

The well kill equipment was flown into Prestwick airport in Ayrshire on Saturday from Houston, Texas.

The equipment is expected to be shipped out to the Elgin area, 150 miles east of Aberdeen, on board the Skandi Aker, a state-of-the-art well intervention vessel.

A Total spokesman said: “We are moving forward with two vessels as potential support on the well intervention in order to ensure we’re ready to start as soon as all the other elements are in place. The Skandi Aker is one of the vessels and the other is a drilling rig.”

Total is expected to conduct up to three more reconnaissance flights to the abandoned platform following the success of the first helicopter flight to the platform last Thursday.

However, a spokesman for the company said that no helicopter flights to the Elgin installation were planned.

The company is also pressing ahead with parallel plans to drill two relief wells and the rigs commissioned to carry out the operation, Transocean’s Sedco 714 and the Rowan Gorilla V, are now en route to the Elgin area. A spokesman for Total said that the aim of the dynamic kill operation would be to deploy a semi-submersible rig, equipped with high-pressure mud pumps, to the platform to pump heavy mud down into G4 from the top.

At the same time, the two drilling rigs will be positioned in the vicinity of the G4 well to implement the second technical solution.

Jean-Michel Genevois, of the company’s operations division, said: “Two solutions are being examined. One involves a specialised support vessel equipped with high-pressure pumping facilities. It will use a crane to transfer flow lines to the Elgin platform. The flow lines will be tied into the G4 well and the heavy mud, already on board, will be pumped through them into the well bore.

“The second solution being considered is moving a drilling rig into the vicinity of the production platform. The pumping operation would be performed from the rig.

“If we are successful, the well will stabilise. We can then perform other operations to permanently plug the well.”