1 Apr 2012

Flare near gas leak rig extinguished

6:54 am on 1 April 2012

A flare near a drilling platform off Scotland's north coast has gone out, reducing the threat of an explosion at a massive gas leak from a North Sea well.

The flare had been lit as part of French energy company Total's response to the gas leak at its Elgin rig, to relieve pressure in the well.

The flare was about 100 metres away from the rig, raising fears of a massive explosion if it ignited the natural gas that has been leaking below the platform for six days.

Total had dismissed the risk of a blast, however one engineering consultant warned that Elgin could become "an explosion waiting to happen".

Options to extinguish the flare had included dropping water from a helicopter or spraying nitrogen overhead to starve the flame of oxygen.

In the end, the flare went out by itself.

The leak is spewing an estimated 200,000 cubic metres of natural gas into the air per day, forming a highly explosive gas cloud around the platform.

It began after pressure rose in a well that had earlier been capped.

A team of international experts is advising on how to plug the leak.

The company says it plans to drill two relief wells, a process that could take six months and cost up to $US3 billion.