Weather conditions are forecast to improve later on Wednesday, allowing French energy company Total to fly experts to its North Sea Elgin oil and gas platform to assess the steps needed to stop a large and potentially explosive gas leak.
Strong east to northeast gales have prevented Total from sending a helicopter with experts to the platform, but the UK's MetOffice said on Wednesday the strength of the wind will drop to below 10 miles per hour and its direction will change to westerly by evening and through Thursday morning.
The odd snow shower around Elgin, Peterhead and Aberdeen continues at first (but) the isolated showers will soon die out during this morning, leaving everywhere with a dry afternoon (and) maximum temperature of 7 degrees Celsius, the MetOffice said, adding Thursday was expected to remain largely dry, with temperatures rising to 10 degrees.
Total said on Tuesday it expected a helicopter with a team of eight experts to fly to the platform either on Wednesday afternoon or on Thursday morning, depending on the weather.
The company said the team of engineers would assess conditions on the platform and find out whether a so-called well kill was feasible through pumping mud into the well and whether any other measures would be necessary.
Total said the gas leak was costing it $2.5 million a day.
Another, more expensive option being pursued in parallel is to dig two relief wells to the source of the gas at 4,000 metres depth, far below the sea bed.
Experts have said that can take up to six months to complete, and Total says it will push up daily costs to $3 million.
Total's share prices have dropped by 6.5 percent since the leak was reported last week, knocking over 6 billion euros ($8.00 billion) off its share value.
It said the team of engineers would consist of staff from Total and U.S. specialist company Wild Well Control.
Firefighters and engineers from the Houston-based company are experts at disasters such as oil rig explosions and have been dubbed Hellfighters by Hollywood.
The gas leak was reported on March 25 and is spewing an estimated 200,000 cubic metres of natural gas from the evacuated platform into the air per day, forming a highly explosive gas cloud around the platform.
It began after pressure rose in a well that had earlier been capped. ($1 = 0.7497 euros)
(Additional reporting by Muriel Boselli in Paris; editing by James Jukwey)