INTRODUCTION American oilmen suspended their attempt on Tuesday (26 April) to tame a "rogue" well which is spewing 4,000 tonnes of oil a day into the North Sea.
GV Fire fighting boat spraying rig with water, with rescue platform in foreground
GV Small ships in oil slick waters
GV Rescue ships on hand as ship continues to spray rig with water
SV Ship spraying rig with water
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Background: INTRODUCTION American oilmen suspended their attempt on Tuesday (26 April) to tame a "rogue" well which is spewing 4,000 tonnes of oil a day into the North Sea. Strong gas vapour built up over the rig and the trouble shooting team abandoned the Rig Bravo. They boarded a barge nearby when the vapour intensified after the wind dropped.
SYNOPSIS: The Bravo Rig, situated half-way between Norway and Scotland, blew out late last week and immediately began gushing oil into the sea. The rig is also blowing out inflammable gas and the slightest spark could turn it into an inferno. But while this makes capping the well in the Ekofisk oil field one of the most dangerous jobs known in the oil industry, the alternative would be to risk a pollution disaster. Oilmen have managed to anchor a large barge alongside the platform and it's from here that the capping operation is being attempted.
All the time the oil slick is getting bigger and in Norway, with general elections due this year, pollution risks from North Sea oil could be a hot political issue. The country's parliament in Oslo heard from the government on Tuesday that if the well cannot be capped, it will take from 30 to 50 days to complete option number two -- that's the drilling of a new well nearby to take the pressure off. In the meantime, oil would continue to gush into the sea.
The blowout happened when a piece of equipment -- a production logging tool -- was jammed in one of Bravo's 15 pipes down below the seabed. Five hundred barrels of mud were pumped into the well to plug it, when efforts began to haul out the production pipe that had been jammed. But this action failed to prevent the blowout. More than a dozen vessels from various countries are now taking part in a combined effort to contain and skim off some 10,000 tonnes of oil which have so far poured into the North Sea. Norway's Minister for Environment, Mrs Gro Harlem Brundtland, said the oil slick is unlikely to foul the beaches in any country around the North Sea.