Total said yesterday it had sent another team out to the stricken Elgin platform as part of its preparations to plug the gas leak.
The 13-strong team was the third to be flown out to the installation 150 miles east of Aberdeen since all 238 workers were evacuated three weeks ago.
Total said the team would “continue with preparatory work ahead of the planned well intervention operation”.
The French operator has stepped up its preparations to start performing the two procedures which is hoped will permanently “kill” the leaking G4 well and stem the seven tonnes of gas which is spewing from the North Sea platform every hour.
The first operation will involve heavy mud being pumped down into the well at high pressure, using either The West Phoenix, a semi-submersible rig, or the Skandi Aker, a well intervention vessel.
Once the mud has blocked the gas and restored the normal pressure, cement will be poured into the well to seal it. At the same time, two relief wells will be drilled to intercept the leak and pump in mud from the bottom.
This back-up method, which will be deployed in case the first approach fails to work, will take up to six months to complete.
Total has already mobilised two rigs for the drilling of the relief wells. The Sedco 714, which is expected to start drilling first, arrived at a standby location outside the Elgin exclusion zone.
The second rig, the Rowan Gorilla V, is currently suspending operations on the nearby West Franklin field before repositioning itself to drill the second relief well.
Previous flights have arried teams from Total and Wild Well Control, who visited the platform to carry out cleaning operations.