Fire Breaks Out on Gulf Rig

Wednesday, July 24, 2013 @ 01:07 PM gHale


A natural gas well blowout on a platform off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico continued to burn Wednesday after it caught fire and forced the evacuation of 44 workers.

There were no injuries as a result of Tuesday night’s fire on the Walter Oil & Gas Corp. rig, said Eileen Angelico, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

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Walter Oil and Gas Corp. said it lost control of a natural gas well Tuesday morning while preparing the well for production. The BSEE said 44 people evacuated from the rig before the explosion.

Energy company Hercules Offshore owns the drilling rig. Both companies said they mobilized in response to the incident.

She said it was not clear about what caused the gas to ignite. It also wasn’t clear early Wednesday how and when crews would attempt to extinguish the blaze. BSEE said earlier Tuesday a firefighting vessel with water and foam capabilities is on the scene.

Wild Well Control Inc. will try to bring the well under control. Angelico said Wild Well personnel approached the well earlier Tuesday night, before the fire, but they determined it was unsafe to get closer when they were about 200 feet away from it. Officials first reported the gas blowout Tuesday morning.

The Coast Guard kept nautical traffic out of an area within 500 meters of the site throughout the day. The Federal Aviation Administration restricted aircraft up to 2,000 feet above the area.

BSEE said inspectors flying over the site soon after the blowout saw a light sheen covering an area about a half-mile by 50 feet. However, it was dissipating quickly.

This blowout won’t be close to as damaging as the 2010 BP oil spill, in which an oil rig, the Deepwater Horizon, exploded off the Louisiana coast, killing 11 workers and eventually spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, federal officials said.

Earlier this month, a gas well off the Louisiana coast flowed for several days before being sealed.

Tuesday’s blowout occurred near an unmanned offshore gas platform that was not currently producing natural gas, said Angelico. The workers were aboard a portable drilling rig known as a jackup rig, owned by Hercules Offshore Inc., which was a contractor for exploration and production company Walter Oil & Gas Corp.

Walter Oil & Gas reported to the BSEE that the rig was completing a “sidetrack well,” which is a way of re-entering the original well bore, Angelico said.

The purpose of the sidetrack well in this instance was not immediately clear. A spokesman for Walter Oil & Gas did not have the information Tuesday night. Industry websites said companies sometimes drill sidetrack wells to remedy a problem with the existing well bore.



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