The Science Behind Total's North Sea Gas Leak: This Isn't BP 2.0
NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Total(TOT) is paying a big price -- as measured by the market reaction -- for the natural gas leak in its North Sea Elgin platform on Tuesday, which the oil major said could take as much as six months to contain.
The six-month time-frame to drill a relief well sounds eerily similar to the "last resort" emergency plan that BP(BP) pursued during the Macondo well disaster. A deep water natural gas disaster, though, can't compare to an oil spill when it comes to potential environment damage.
The 7% decline in Total shares on Tuesday is a punishment born of the post-Macondo era. Energy investors shoot first and ask questions later. Indeed, the firing was rapid in ADR shares of Total -- 27 million shares traded for an ADR that usually trades less than 3 million shares.
|Total faces the biggest deepwater disaster response test since the BP Macondo well disaster. The environment may be luckier this time.|
Take it from Chevron(CVX) CEO John Watson, who recently said in response to a question about the company's woes in Brazil, that the only strategy for an oil major is, "Don't put oil in the water." Watson didn't say "Don't put natural gas in the water."
Not that Chevron or Total would want to put anything in the water other than perfectly performing deep sea platforms. There are human health risks from gas at the surface -- the rig was evacuated and other majors have evacuated nearby rigs -- as well as the risk of a blast caused by the concentration of gas. There is also the fact that BP's initial comments on the Macondo well disaster proved to be far from accurate in assessing the scope of what was about to occur.