Elgin top kill ‘set for next week’

Almost ready: Seadrill's West Phoenix nears move to Elgin to start top kill job Seadrill

French major preparing to move West Phoenix into place as production restart this year possible, report claims

Total is preparing to start its ‘top kill’ procedure on the leaking Elgin platform in the North Sea next week, a company official has said.

The French major is even hoping to return to some form of production at the field before the year is out, Reuters quoted finance boss Patrick de La Chevardiere as saying on Friday.

The previous day the company had said it had recently installed a diverter on the Elgin processing, utilities and quarters (PUQ) facility from which a leak was noticed on 25 March. The diverter installed on the G4 wellhead is intended to divert leaking gas away from the wellhead and platform.

Total then said its next step is to move Seadrill's West Phoenix semi-submersible drilling rig to Elgin in advance of starting a top kill job to plug the well. The vessel Skandi Aker will assist in the operation.

On Friday de La Chevardiere said: "[The diverter installation] is a key step in improving the safety of the installation and we are preparing to start the well intervention next week. We remain confident that this will stop the gas leak.”

Apart from the West Phoenix, Total has hired Transocean’s semi-submersible Sedco 714 and the jack-up Rowan Gorilla V to drill two relief wells. The Sedco 714 has already started drilling with Upstream learning last week that the Gorilla V move was due to happen next week and the West Phoenix move shortly thereafter.

Production was shut in at Elgin following discovery of the leak a month ago. However, de La Chevardiere hinted output could restart in 2012.

"Our teams are working on several scenarios and there is a possibility that we could restart gradually sometime before the end of the year," Reuters quoted him as saying.

"If we take a conservative view that Elgin-Franklin does not restart before year-end then 2012 production could be flat."

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