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Greenpeace Observes 'Oily Sheen' Miles from North Sea Leak Site

Not taking Total's word for it, enviromental group sends vessel to verify impacts of gas in North Sea exclusion zone

Common Dreams staff

The Wednesday, March 28, 2012 aerial shot provided by Greenpeace shows Total's Elgin Wellhead Platform in the North Sea off the shore of Scotland. (AP Photo / Greenpeace, Martin Langer)

A vessel operated by Greenpeace arrived in the waters near an oil and gas drilling rig owned by energy giant Total to observe the environmental impacts of a gas leak that has been ongoing since March 25th off the coast of Scotland in the North Sea.

"We are here because oil companies often withhold information on accidents," said Christian Bussau, chief scientist and ocean expert at Greenpeace. "We want to get our own picture of the environmental damage from the scene."

Meanwhile, clean up efforts by Total were hampered by heavy seas and rough weather.

On March 25 over two hundred workers were evacuated from the platform, located about 150 miles off the Scottish coast, and a two-mile exclusion zone was set up around the site, while fire-fighting ships remained on standby in case of an explosion.

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Agence France-Presse reports: Oily substance at North Sea gas leak rig: Greenpeace

An oily sheen has spread around a stricken North Sea gas rig, Greenpeace activists on a ship nearby said Monday, but Total insisted it was formed by gas condensate.

Greenpeace's Koenigin Juliana research ship arrived on Monday at the edge of an exclusion zone around the abandoned Elgin platform owned by Total, 150 miles (240 kilometres) off Aberdeen in eastern Scotland.

The French energy giant insists there has been little environmental impact since the gas began leaking from the platform on March 25.

But Christian Bussau, a marine expert from Greenpeace who is on board the ship, said a multi-coloured sheen around the platform was spreading and the group was taking air and water samples.

He said he believed the substance to be oil, though he admitted Greenpeace would not be able to analyse its samples until the ship returned to its base in Germany.

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Reuters adds: Total's battle to plug gas leak hit by rough seas

Total faced rough seas and heavy winds on Monday as the oil and gas company prepared to send men and machines to battle a leak at its Elgin platform in the North Sea that has spewed gas into the air for over a week.

The French company, which is spending $1 million per day on efforts to plug the leak, plans to move drilling rigs from two nearby fields, fly staff to the platform if it is deemed safe and send two underwater inspection vehicles to check where best to drill relief wells, Total said on Monday.

"Both (inspection) vessels are currently awaiting optimum sea conditions before they can be deployed," Total said, raising concerns that relief operations will be delayed as Met Office forecasts showed even stronger wind levels for Monday afternoon.

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