Offshore giant Total said an “important advancement” had been made in plugging the gas leak at its stricken Elgin platform last night.
The firm revealed it had moved a semi-submersible drilling rig into the exclusion zone in the North Sea and was ready to “kill” the G4 well.
The West Phoenix rig will support an operation to pump heavy mud into the well to stop the leak about 150 miles to the east of Aberdeen. Total said it was now “on track” to start the work in coming days, depending on the weather.
The UK Government revealed on Thursday that it had granted environmental permits for the operation, and that the Health and Safety Executive had confirmed it had no objections to the action.
All 238 workers were evacuated from the platform when the leak was detected on March 25.
A Total spokesman said: “An important advancement in stopping the leak on the G4 well on the Elgin complex was made today when the semi-submersible drilling rig, the West Phoenix, moved within the exclusion zone ready to position itself directly alongside the complex.
“This dynamically positioned rig will be the main support vessel during the forthcoming well intervention operation and will be used to pump heavy mud into the G4 well in order to stop the leak.
“Total is on track to begin the intended well intervention operation within the coming days, subject to continuing favourable weather.
“Improved weather and the fitting of the ‘diverter’ to the leaking G4 wellhead last week enabled eight additional flights to Elgin by teams of experts from Total and specialist contractors.”
The spokesman added that the visits to the platform this week had focused on completing the installation of a temporary pipe system to link the bridge and wellhead platform, to carry and pump heavy mud from the West Phoenix.
“By safely redirecting leaking gas and condensates away from the platform, more helicopter flights to Elgin have been possible,” he said.
“In parallel, drilling of the first back-up relief well by the Sedco 714 is still progressing according to plan.”