Gas flows through a Bacton gas terminal plummet after North Sea Elgin platform leak

Gas flows through one of the Bacton terminals have fallen by 60pc as a result of the North Sea leak from Total's Elgin PUQ platform.

A spokesman for the National Grid said normal daily flows through the terminal at this time of year were 15m cubic meters but the rate had fallen to six million cubic meters because of the gas leak.

However the spokesman said the drop would have no impact on UK gas supplies. The daily national normal demand at this time of year was 285m cubic meters but because of the warm weather, forecast demand was only 230m cubic meters.

'The flows into Bacton have reduced but we are getting supplies from elsewhere in the UK to ensure the gas demand for today is met,' said the spokesman.

A spokesman for Shell, one of the site operators, declined to comment on gas flows through Bacton but said there was no safety issue involved.

Shell's Bacton terminal takes gas from the 474 kilometre-long SEAL Pipeline, which connects to the Shearwater and Elgin-Franklin gas fields in the northern North Sea.

It could take as long as six months to drill a relief well to stop the gas leak at the offshore platform, according to Total.

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The company is looking at several options on how to stem the release of gas which started on Sunday.

All 238 workers were evacuated from the platform, about 150 miles (241km) off the coast of Aberdeen, following the discovery of the leak on Sunday.

An exclusion zone of two nautical miles (2.3 miles) has been set up around Elgin, with ships and aircraft ordered to stay away from the area.

Shell has reduced its workforce on two offshore installations close to the Total platform as a precaution.

Around 85 staff have been taken off the company's Shearwater platform and the nearby Noble Hans Deul drilling rig, leaving a workforce of 117 people.

Shell also said it has brought forward plans for maintenance at Shearwater and is shutting down production in a 'controlled manner'.

Total E&P UK, which operates the Elgin platform, said it was taking 'all possible measures' to try to identify the source and cause of the leak and to bring it under control.

The company is considering various options for dealing with the leak, one of which is drilling a relief well which could take six months.

David Hainsworth, health, safety and environment manager for Total, told BBC Good Morning Scotland that the situation poses risks.

He said: 'The gas is flammable but the platform power was turned off to minimise risk of ignition but clearly there is a risk. We have taken away a series of risks but there is always a possibility. It's low but you never say never.

'The best-case scenario is that the gas in this area is not very productive and it dies off in the coming days and weeks.'

A sheen on the water is present near the platform, estimated to extend over 4.8 square kilometres (1.85 square miles) and measures between two and 20 tonnes in volume.

Total insisted its preliminary assessments indicate there has been no significant impact on the environment because of the leak.

Offshore union RMT welcomed the quick evacuation of the platform but called for urgent action to stop the leak.

RMT offshore organiser Jake Molloy said: 'Total acted very swiftly in getting everyone off but the potential still exists for catastrophic devastation.

'If the gas cloud somehow finds an ignition source we could be looking at complete destruction.

'This is an unprecedented situation and we really are in the realms of the unknown but the urgent need now is to find a way of stopping the flow of gas.'

RSPB Scotland called for transparency from Total.

Director Stuart Housden said: 'We hope that, second to minimising risks to people, environmental considerations will be foremost in the mind of Total when considering their response to this situation.

'We urgently need to know exactly what environmental impacts the leaking substances could have.'

The Scottish Government said it is monitoring the developments.

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: 'Efforts by Total to resolve the gas leak are ongoing.

'As the situation currently stands, impact on the environment, which is the Scottish Government's area of responsibility, is minimal.'

Total E&P UK said it met the Secretary of State's representative, the Health and Safety Executive, the Department of Energy and Climate change, Marine Scotland and the Coastguard yesterday.

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