Sheriff hands down record fine to oil company over North Sea gas leak

Sheriff hands down record fine to oil company over North Sea gas leak

An oil company has been fined £1.125 million for causing one of the biggest ever gas leaks in the North Sea.

Total’s Elgin platform, which is located 150 miles east of Aberdeen, began leaking in March 2012 for 51 days.

It was eventually stopped by pumping heavy mud into the well and using cement plugs.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), it is the largest fine even given by a sheriff over health and safety.

The company has now admitted regulation failings at Aberdeen Sheriff Court. While no one was hurt, the court heard workers ran for their lives after the sudden release of gas.

Total attributed the leak to a miscalculated attempt to destroy an unstable gas well on the platform.

Managing director of Total E&P UK, Elisabeth Proust, said: “We regret the gas leak from the Elgin platform in 2012 and accept the fine handed down by the court.

“Following the incident Total carried out its own investigation to identify the causes of the incident and what can be done to prevent similar incidents in future.

“We also cooperated fully with the investigations carried out by DECC and the HSE. Furthermore, Total has shared the lessons learned from this incident widely across the industry and with the authorities.”

HSE operations manager Russell Breen added: “This incident was foreseeable and entirely preventable. There were a number of failures on the part of Total, which contributed to the blowout.

“Industry must learn from this, it is an important reminder of the ever-present hazards with oil and gas production and the need for them to be rigorously managed. This could have easily led to loss of life.”

But the RMT unions complained the fine was “wholly inadequate” and nothing more than a “slap on the wrist”.

General secretary Mick Cash said: “For a giant global player like Total this fine can be written off as petty cash and a minor inconvenience and does nothing to hold the senior management of the company to real and genuine corporate account.”


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