The British government Wednesday defended the "robust safety regime" of oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, even as gas continued to leak from an abandoned platform off the east coast of Scotland.
"We have in place emergency plans. ... and these contribute to the North Sea being the most robust safety regime in the world -- something which the Americans recognized after the Gulf of Mexico," said Charles Hendry, minister of state in the Department for Energy and Climate Change.
Meanwhile, oil company Total confirmed that a flare was still alight on the offshore Elgin drilling platform, some 240 kilometres from the city of Aberdeen on the east coast of Scotland, in northern Britain.
Total said a surveillance vessel had been dispatched to the area, equipped with remote operation cameras to take underwater images.
More than 230 workers were evacuated from the platform Sunday after a gas leak from a well below the seabed. The source of the leak has still to be identified. An exclusion zone has been imposed for sea and air traffic.
"The flare is still alight on the main production platform, however the wind is blowing the gas plume in the opposite direction away from this flare," said Total spokesman David Hainsworth.
Options to extinguish the flare were being considered, he said. A sheen of gas condensate of approximately 4.8 square kilometres has formed on the sea surface around the platform.
Meanwhile, authorities in Scotland called on Total to show "greater transparency" regarding the leak.
"We urgently need to know exactly what environmental impacts the leaking of the substance could have," said Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead.
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