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In 2012 the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM) was part of a large-scale response to assess and control a gas leak from the Elgin Platform in the UK North Sea, and results from those research flights have now been published.

The Elgin well head and neighbouring drilling and production platforms were evacuated between March and May 2012, which meant that direct access to assess the leak was difficult and potentially dangerous. The FAAM research aircraft, a modified BAe-146 fitted with chemistry instruments and sampling inlets, was rapidly deployed to measure the flow rate and identify the source of the leaking gas from the air. Results from the research flights are now publicly available, as the work led by NCAS Professors James Lee and Stephen Mobbs, based at the universities of York and Leeds, has been published (https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-2017-332).

Within 48 hours of being deployed, the research team were able to estimate the gas flow rate, which until that point, had not been accurately identified (five days into the uncontrolled leak). The team then went on to find the source of the gas leak, which was unlikely to be from the main high-pressure high-temperature Elgin gas field, but more probably from the Hod Formation sitting above the production reservoir. Their investigations showed that the gas leak from the Hod Formation was smaller and more manageable than initially thought, which meant the response strategy (pumping weighted drilling mud into a well head) was simpler than expected.

Of the organisations and methods used, the scientific services from FAAM proved to be the most robust and valuable of all, especially in accurately determining the gas release rate. FAAM continues to have an important role to play, both nationally and internationally, in providing unbiased, accurate and timely atmospheric data to support environmental protection.

For more information about the methods used and results contact:

Professor James Lee This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Professor Stephen Mobbs This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.