Nightly News   |  March 28, 2012

Scrambling to stop the offshore gas leak

A flame burning 400 feet from where the explosive natural gas is leaking on the North Sea could pose additional danger. NBC’s Anne Thompson reports.

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>>> and tonight, what many fear could be the next environmental disaster . a dangerous gas leak in the north sea and a possibility of a massive explosion is causing a lot of people to ask, could this become a crisis like the one we watched unfold in the gulf of mexico ? our chief environmental affairs correspondent anne thompson is with us tonight from aberdeen, scott lnld, good evening.

>> good evening, brian. as officials here in aberdeen try to figure out how to stop that leak, they're also trying to stamp out growing concerns about a flair that is still burning on the abandoned platform. the flair burns off high-pressure gas and it does so some 500 feet above and 400 feet away from where the exploding gas is leaking, according to company officials, but one industry official we spoke to today said any ignition source, even the smallest spark, could trigger an explosion and a fire on the platfernal and send fire down the well. but officials i spoke to tonight, they dismiss that as speculation, saying there is no immediate concern about the flair and they added that the wind is actually working in their favor, blowing the gas cloud away from the flair. they also added that in their opinion, this is not a repeat of the bp disaster in the gulf of mexico . this platform is in fairly shallow water, about 300 feet, but its well goes much deeper into the worth, some four miles. that distance plus the solid rock in the north sea is going to make drilling a relief well much tougher. the estimate is six months. you remember in the bp case, it was three months. brian.

>> anne thompson on this still unfolding story off the coast of scotland, anne, thanks.