BiSN Technologies Ltd

March 29, 2012 14:45 ET

North Sea Gas Leak Entirely Avoidable, Says UK Company

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - March 29, 2012) - The major gas leak which began at the Elgin field in the North Sea on Sunday could have been avoided, according to experts at a British firm.

The field is operated by French company Total, who identified the source of the leak on Thursday, with a spokesman explaining that the leak was emerging from a wellhead, over 13,000 feet beneath the seabed, that was 'plugged' a year ago.

When a well reaches its economic limit (when production no longer covers operating costs), it is 'plugged' and abandoned. But the method used by the industry to plug unprofitable wells is outdated and not fit for purpose, says Paul Carragher at BiSN Technologies Ltd:

"The problems of leaking oil and gas wells continues to grow - it is time for the industry to adopt new technology to make this a problem of the past. We now have the technology to permanently seal even the most difficult of wells in a cost effective manner."

BiSN have been at the forefront of developing tools for safe well abandonment. The BiSN Bridge Plug™ uses an alloy that is melted in situ, creating a solid metal to metal seal which expands as it solidifies. This new generation of bridge plugs are corrosion-resistant, and capable of holding back more than 50,000 PSI of pressure, which far exceeds anything else in the marketplace.

The tool has been developed with the help of the Virtual Engineering Centre; a University of Liverpool led partnership established to advance the use of Virtual Engineering techniques to provide innovative solutions to industry challenges. The Centre has been part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Northwest Development Agency (NWDA).

Dr Anthony Robotham, Executive Director at the Virtual Engineering Centre commented:

"The Virtual Engineering Centre has worked closely with BiSN Technologies Ltd to develop a numerical simulation of the installation process of the BiSN Bridge Plug™. This simulation shows how the alloy melts and solidifies in the well and demonstrates the integrity of the seal. The simulation has been validated with experimental data and is adaptable to both oil and gas applications."

Worldwide, there are an estimated 20-30 million oil and gas wells abandoned using primitive capping technologies, which could cause further serious headaches for operators across the globe.

The latest reports indicate that Total are still weighing up their options as the evacuated Elgin platform continues to burn. The company has sent fire-fighting ships to the site amid fears the leak could cause a major explosion, potentially costing Total billions of dollars. They have played down the chance of this worst-case scenario occurring, stating that the flare should extinguish itself within the next few days, but the company has already taken a significant hit on the stock market, whilst major stakeholders Eni SpA and BG Group Plc have also suffered.

If there is no explosion but the leak continues, Total may face a bill of around £200 million to drill a relief well to stem the leak, whilst blocking the well with heavy mud is another possibility.

Whatever solution is chosen, the company may have to work hard to rebuild its reputation in the wake of this completely preventable incident.

Notes to editors:

The Virtual Engineering Centre is a University of Liverpool initiative in partnership with the Northwest Aerospace Alliance, the Science and Technologies Facilities Council, BAE Systems, Morsons Projects and Airbus.

The University of Liverpool is a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive institutions in the UK.

Located at the Daresbury Laboratory of the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the Virtual Engineering Centre is partially funded by the Northwest Development Agency (NWDA) and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The Virtual Engineering Centre is committed to advancing the use of Virtual Engineering techniques and advanced modelling and simulation to enable business growth and competitiveness.

For more information about the Virtual Engineering Centre, please contact Lynn Dwyer on 01925 864853 or email lynn.dwyer@liv.ac.uk.

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