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Fresh fears over North Sea safety after Elgin leak

Patrice de Vivies, chairman of Total UK, told Reuters he had already warned Royal Dutch Shell, which operates the neighbouring Shearwater field, that its operations could also be at risk from the problem.

An extensive programme of repairs could be needed across North Sea oil and gas operations in light of emerging evidence of causes of last year’s Elgin gas leak, experts have warned.

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Oil & Gas UK has warned there could be a record slump in production in 2013 because of increased downtime for maintenance. Photo: Alamy

By , Energy Correspondent: 9:14PM BST 05 Sep 2013

A corrosive drilling fluid may have been to blame for the leak at the Total-operated platform, which went on for a month and a half before being stopped and contributed to a slump in North Sea production last year .

The French energy giant is planning to “kill” and replace 10 other wells in the area in light of the lessons learnt from the Elgin accident.

Patrice de Vivies, chairman of Total UK, told Reuters he had already warned Royal Dutch Shell, which operates the neighbouring Shearwater field, that its operations could also be at risk from the problem. Shearwater, like Elgin, produces gas at high pressure and high temperatures.

“With Shell we have shared even more as they have a neighbouring field, Shearwater, meaning they potentially have, perhaps, not identical, but similar problems,” Mr de Vivies said. Shell declined to comment.

Liane Smith, founder of well integrity specialist Intetech, part of Wood Group, said: “It’s an operational well, and there are hundreds of thousands of those out there, and any one of them at any time potentially could suffer from the sort of problem Elgin has apparently had, so we need to know about it as an industry.”

John Downs, a chemical engineer who runs a consultancy, said that “an extensive well repair programme may be needed if the stress corrosion cracking caused by bromide brine in Elgin is also happening elsewhere”.

North Sea production has declined every year for the last decade and the industry body has already warned that 2013 could see the biggest slump yet.

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