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North Sea oil platform gas flare extinguished, says Total energy


A sand berm built to capture oil from the BP spill is seen at an oil cleanup site in Barataria Bay April 13, 2011 in Barataria Bay, Louisiana. Barataria Bay and its fragile wetlands was one of the hardest hit areas in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion which killed eleven crew members. 206 million gallons of oil eventually spilled into the Gulf of Mexico until the BP well was finally sealed. Though a gas flare on an oil rig in the North Sea has been extinguished, some still fear the possibility of an explosion.


Mario Tama

A gas flare at a North Sea platform that has been leaking gas for nearly a week has extinguished itself, French energy company Total announced on Saturday.

"We can confirm that the flare has been extinguished," Brian O'Neill, spokesman for Total, told Agence France Presse from the company's makeshift crisis center in Aberdeen, 150 miles from the offshore Elgin platform. "It extinguished itself, which is what we expected to happen."

The energy company first received news that the flare has gone out on Friday afternoon, according to BBC News.

"We received the first indication that the flare may be out at 12:07 yesterday from our first surveillance flight of the day," a Total spokesman told BBC. "The news was then reaffirmed at 4:36 p.m. following our second flight of the day. We received what we consider final confirmation at 8:20 (Saturday) morning, when our sea vessels on location reported no further flare activity through the night." 

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However, highly flammable gas was still leaking from the oil rig at an estimated rate of 200,000 cubic meters a day as of Sunday, continuing to spark worries about a massive explosion, should the gas come in contact with heat, AFP reported. 

About 240 workers had been removed from the platform earlier in the week, BBC reported. No one was injured.  

Richard Lochhead, Scotland's Environment Secretary, stressed the need for "absolute transparency" from Total and the British government with regards to the gas leak, CNN reported

"We remain in close contact with Total, DECC, Marine Coastguard Agency and Health and Safety Executive during this time and will continue to monitor the environmental situation in the surrounding area," he said, BBC reported. 

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Lochhead said that the current environmental risk "continues to be minimal," but promised authorities would maintain a close watch on the rig. A team of international experts have been working on a strategy to stop the leak, MSNBC reported. Total announced plans to drill two relief wells, a process that could take six months and cost up to $3 billion, on Friday, according to MSNBC. 

The company has not found any evidence of human error in the leak, which appears to be coming from a natural rock formation, Total UK's managing director Phillipe Guys said Friday, according to BBC. 

The North Sea's last major accident was in 1988, when the Piper Alpha oil platform operated by the US-based Occidental Petroleum exploded, killing 167 people, AFP reported.