Total Executives: Final report on Elgin incident due within weeks
BY GERALDINE AMIEL
SCOTLAND -- A final report of the gas leak incident which forced Total to evacuate its North Sea platform of Elgin last year is to be issued within weeks and conclude as the cause a mechanical failure due to stress corrosion, the Head of the group's United Kingdom operations Philippe Guys said.
As the group is gradually restarting production there, a "huge project of development" has been set up, with additional wells to be drilled and "Elgin-Franklin is en route for another 20 years of development" Mr. Guys said during a press presentation there earlier this week.
In March last year, a gas leak at one of the wells at the Elgin natural gas field forced the group to evacuate the platform and stop production, fearing a deadly accident similar to BP’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. Yet the dent in Total's production from the halting of all operations at Elgin was ill-timed as the group is strongly competing with peers to answer gas demand around the world, notably in emerging markets or countries dropping nuclear as an energy source after the Fukushima Daiichi catastrophe following the 2011 Tohoku, Japan, earthquake and tsunami.
Total plans to add two platforms on the Elgin-Franklin field, respectively named Elgin WHPB and Franklin WHPB, to drill the additional wells needed to boost production there, Mr. Guys also said.
The group is also considering operations at another gas reservoir called "Fulmar A" which hasn't been tapped so far, Total's VP for Northern Europe, Patrice de Vivies, also speaking earlier this week, said.
By end March-early April, Elgin was producing at 55-60% of its capacity compared with 100% before the incident, when the field was producing as much as 120,000 boepd.
Total has conducted its own investigations and has also mandated French seamless tube maker Vallourec to conduct its own research on bits of the casing which has been leaking. The United Kingdom authorities are also looking at bits of the casing, Mr. de Vivies said.
Some cracks have been found on the casing, due to stress corrosion and some traces of bromide have been detected, which could have contributed to the cracks on the casing, he said.
Bromide was used in compression fluids injected in the faulty well in 1998 for several weeks, creating a reaction with a lubricant that weakened the casing, he added. Both reports from Total and Vallourec showed these results, he noted.
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