Britain's Department of Energy and Climate Change says the permit to drill the relief well has been granted following a full environmental assessment.
The new relief well option will be used only if a dynamic kill operation using heavy mud which is also planned by Total fails to plug the leak.
Under the new permit, the Sedco 714 semi-submersible will be allowed to drill the relief well from a surface location 1.2 kilometres – just under a mile – from the Elgin WHP, to a vertical depth of 4,400 metres (14,432 ft), which could take up to 180 days – six months – to drill.
“We are happy with the progress Total is making to resolve this incident as quickly as possible. We continue to monitor the situation closely and the latest reports from Marine Scotland show that the impact to the environment remains minimal,” a spokesman from DECC declared in a new statement on the incident.