French oil company Total has been forced to shut down its Elgin platform, one of two platfroms which make up the Elgin-Franklin platform array in the UK North Sea, due to a natural gas leak.

The firm immediately launched emergency procedures when the incident occured on Sunday, but is finding it difficult to shut the well because of the unusually high pressure of the undersea reservoirs.

According to the company, there is there is no immediate danger of ignition, but Jake Molloy of the RMT union, which represents offshore workers, told BBC Scotland that the potential remained for ‘catastrophic devastation’.

The company is looking at an option to carry out a process of pumping heavy mud into the well to suppress the flow of gas; although according to reports, water is already showing a sheen of between 2t and 23t of gas condensate, measuring six nautical miles in length.

Drifting gas has forced Shell to move 120 non-essential staff from the Shearwater platform and Hans Deul drilling rig, about four miles from the Elgin, as well as evacuating all 238 workers on the Elgin platform.

Coastguards have ordered ships to travel at least two miles away from the platform and indicated a three-mile exclusion zone for aircraft.

The situation is being monitored by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change, while Oil Spill Response is currently evaluating the situation.

Total said that production on the Elgin, Franklin and West Franklin fields has all been stopped.

Image: A Natural Gas Leak has forced Total to shut down its Elgin-Franklin platform in the UK’s North Sea