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Oil rig leaks, causing explosive natural gas cloud above North Sea


In this handout image provided be the U.S. Coast Guard, fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 21, 2010 near New Orleans, Louisiana. An estimated 206 million gallons of crude oil have spilled into the gulf from accident. Multiple Coast Guard helicopters, planes and cutters responded to rescue the Deepwater Horizon's 126 person crew.


U.S. Coast Guard

Total, France's largest oil company, is following in the footsteps of BP with its own gas leak, although experts say this more recent environmental disaster isn't nearly as damaging.

Today Total announced that explosive natural gas is leaking from its Elgin North Sea platform. The leak is occurring less than 100 meters away from a gas flare, which workers left burning as they evacuated the rig, Reuters reported today.

A flame above the company's Elgin North Sea Platform began burning three days ago, BBC News reported. The flame is the result of a gas leak. A cloud of escaped natural gas has since "bubbled up through the sea," the BBC said.

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Total told Reuters on Tuesday that cleaning up the mess could last six months. Capping the well will be difficult because the gas is toxic for people who get too close to it. It could also threaten fish and marine life.

"This is the well from hell,"  Frederic Hauge, head of a Norwegian organization that watches the oil industry, told the Daily Mail. "This problem is out of control and is only going to get bigger and bigger."

Despite the explosive gas cloud that is forming, Total said that risk of an actual explosion is minimal.

Others disagree.

"The platform could become an explosion waiting to happen," an industry consultant told Reuters today