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North Sea platforms shut down in gas alert

Jake Molloy: “serious”
Jake Molloy: “serious”

THREE North Sea platforms have been shut down and about 100 workers evacuated after a gas leak was discovery.

Taqa Bratani halted production on the North Cormorant yesterday after gas was detected in a drilling area about 5.15am.

The platform had to be depressurised and 92 workers – almost half the workforce – were flown off.

Two other neighbouring installations owned by the company – the Tern and Eider – were also shut down as they are connected to the North Cormorant.

A Taqa spokeswoman said last night it was too early to tell when production would restart – but insisted the situation was “under control”.

Jake Molloy, regional organiser for the RMT union’s offshore branch, said the action taken by the company showed how serious the leak was.

“That Taqa has taken to shutting down two neighbouring installations and evacuating upwards of 100 men shows how serious the incident has been,” he said.

“It must have been a serious event to go to these lengths.”

He said it would be wrong to compare the incident with Total’s Elgin leak, which led to the platform being shut down completely earlier this year.

Operations were suspended in March after gas started spewing out of a well below the platform and all 238 men had to be evacuated.

The Elgin/Franklin field is not expected to resume full production until next year

“The Elgin leak was a different set-up completely,” Mr Molloy said. “North Cormorant is a low-pressure system. It would be unfair to say it was of the same scale.”

Most of the workers were lifted from the North Cormorant by helicopter yesterday and taken to nearby Taqa installations – including those that have been shut down.

Thirty-eight people who could not be accommodated offshore overnight have returned onshore.

There were 202 people on the North Cormorant at the time the leak was discovered.

The Taqa spokeswoman said removing all non-essential staff had been a precautionary measure.

“Ninety-two non-essential crew were transferred from the North Cormorant platform following an incident on the installation earlier today,” she said.

“There was a total of 202 personnel on board and all are safe and well. The platform’s well operations have been made safe and the situation is under control.”

She added that action had been taken to safeguard the other installations since the cause of the incident was not yet known.

“Our number-one priority is the safety and welfare of our people on board the facility, as well as the surrounding environment,” the spokeswoman said.

Last night, Mr Molloy said the company had taken appropriate action to ensure the workers were removed safely.

“Nobody has been hurt and the evacuation has clearly been conducted in a manner which has got everyone off the installation safely,” he said.

The North Cormorant platform is owned and operated by Taqa Bratani and is located about 109 miles north-east of Shetland’s capital, Lerwick, 310 miles north-east of Aberdeen.

The platform produces about 9,000 barrels of oil a day.

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