Natural gas rig keeps burning in Gulf of Mexico

U.S. Coast Guard
Thursday, July 25, 2013 - 10:26am

The operators of a natural gas rig that burned and partially collapsed off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico are expected to ask federal regulators for approval to drill a relief well to cut off gas fueling the fire, according to the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

No one was injured in the fire, which broke out Tuesday at the site in 154 feet of water 60 miles southwest of Grand Isle, Louisiana. It was still burning as of Wednesday night.

While the rig remained standing, parts of the structure above water had collapsed as a result of the intense heat, officials said.

Crews were spraying water on the rig in an effort to limit further damage, the BSEE said Wednesday.

The potential environmental impact was unclear. The BSEE said Wednesday that the only contamination so far had been a light sheen on the ocean that appeared to dissipate quickly.

No oil was being released, the BSEE said.

The agency, established in 2011 to manage regulation of offshore drilling activities, would have to approve any permit to drill a relief well, it said.

The rig's owner, Hercules Offshore, said Wednesday that it had brought in an environmental expert to keep an eye on wind and ocean conditions to track any possible contamination. The company was also preparing to bring in another of its drilling rigs to prepare the relief well, if necessary, it said.

The accident happened when workers aboard the rig hit an unexpected pocket of gas while preparing the well for production. Forty-four workers were evacuated from the rig without injury, officials said.

In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig was operating about 130 miles southeast of New Orleans when it exploded after a well blowout, killing 11 workers and ultimately spewing 210 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico before it was capped months later.


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