‘One spark and we’ll have another Piper Alpha on our hands’: Explosive gas leak from ‘well from hell’ threatens repeat of Britain’s deadliest rig disaster

Fears are growing that a single spark could lead to a repeat of Britain’s deadliest rig disaster. A huge toxic gas leak spewing from a North Sea oil well may lead to an explosion like that seen in the Piper Alpha disaster in 1988, it is claimed.Environmentalists have branded Total’s Elgin gas platform ‘the well from hell’ after the leak was discovered at the weekend. Total evacuated all 238 workers from its platform in the North Sea after the potentially disastrous discovery on Sunday.

An exclusion zone for ships and aircraft was set up around the evacuated rig in an attempt to prevent an explosion. But there are fears that a naked flame, located on the top of the leaking platform, could spark a massive explosion and lead to an environmental disaster.

Battle to plug the leak graphic

One spark could ignite the gas cloud – so big it can be seen eight miles away – above the platform.  Experts who admitted they still do not know the exact location of the leak or how much gas is emerging say it could take six months to fix.

Jake Molloy, regional organiser of the RMT union, said: ‘If the gas were to find an ignition source, this could lead to the same outcome as Piper Alpha.’

He added: ‘Total acted very swiftly in getting everyone off but the potential still exists for catastrophic devastation.

‘If the gas cloud somehow finds an ignition source we could be looking at complete destruction.

‘The emergency operation in the North Sea is unprecedented.’

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