Press release: Call Total to account

Posted in: News
Date posted: 5 April 2012

Press release, 5 April 2012: Operation Noah is calling on Total to publish the full extent of pollution from the Elgin Platform in the North Sea immediately, and for the UK Government to state what action it will take in response to the leak.

Operation Noah (ON) believes Total’s statements to date, that the environmental impacts of the leak are small, to be highly misleading.

ON’s chair, Dr Isabel Carter, comments: ‘We understand from information provided by Total that methane is the main component of the gas leaking from the Elgin field. Methane is a highly potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential 23 times that of carbon dioxide.

‘If seven tons of gas an hour is leaking from the field (as reported) and it takes six months to bring this leak under control, the pollution could be equivalent to the annual carbon dioxide emissions from individuals in a city the size of St Albans.

North Sea

‘We have unique responsibility as humans, made in God’s image, for the wellbeing of this fragile earth. It is our experience that people increasingly recognise the threat to their future security, and that of their families, from rising emissions of greenhouse gas pollutants. They are willing to act to curb emissions, if all sectors including government and industry, are also willing to act responsibly and demonstrate leadership on this issue.

‘To date the UK Coalition Government has been conspicuous in its silence on this leak. Were a similar quantity of oil leaking from the platform, ministers would be making daily statements in Parliament. The rescue operation on the Carrier, stranded near Colwyn Bay today, will no doubt receive far more media coverage, though the possible loss of half its cargo of oil, would amount to less than 10% of the likely total carbon dioxide emissions from the Elgin Platform.’

Operation Noah requests two immediate responses:

  • For Total to publish the full details of the pollution arising from the leak, including the immediate and long-term global warming impact of methane emissions, and to inform the public what action they will take to offset this.
  • For the Government to explain what action they will take in response to the leak, including fines and sanctions on Total.

Mark Letcher, ON’s Vice Chair adds: ‘If the Government choose to ignore this leak, we will be in the absurd position where individuals, businesses, community groups and local authorities are working to cut emissions, while the fifth largest oil and gas company in the world is at liberty to emit vast quantity of pollution without check or sanction.

We expect Government to ensure that the actions of oil and gas companies operate within the constraints necessary, to avoid irreparable damage to our climate system.’


ON have assumed that methane has a global warming potential 23 times that of carbon dioxide. ON is calling on Total to publish the full extent of the impact of this pollution to global warming based on the latest evidence from the IPCC regarding the short, medium and long-term global warming potential of methane released into the atmosphere.

Per capita emissions in the UK estimated to be 8.4 tonnes per person. Source: The Environment in your Pocket 2009 – DEFRA.

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