Offshore Platform Fire Forces Evac

Wednesday, October 8, 2014 @ 02:10 PM gHale

A fire at an offshore natural gas platform in Alaska’s Cook Inlet forced four workers to evacuate and destroyed the crew’s living quarters, but no one suffered injuries and the environmental risk was minimal, officials said.

The blaze broke out Thursday at 7:30 a.m. By evening, the unified command set up for the incident said the fire was in full containment.

Hilcorp Alaska LLC owns the platform and 11 others among the 16 platforms in the inlet.

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The platform would end up monitored through the night, the unified command including Hilcorp, the Coast Guard and the state Department of Environmental Conservation said in a statement.

A Hilcorp helicopter crew evacuated the four workers from the platform 8 miles offshore, company spokeswoman Lori Nelson said.

There was no spill at the scene about 45 miles southwest of Anchorage. The affected site, called the Baker platform, has only one active production well, and they were able to shut it off remotely, Nelson said.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Joshua Yates said 11,000 gallons of diesel fuel were onboard, along with 8,000 gallons of drill mud and 1,000 gallons of hydraulic oil.

A subsurface pipeline that carries the gas to the town of Nikiski also closed down.

The fire broke out during a morning safety meeting, Nelson said, and was not production-related.

All four workers who evacuated were doing well, but they were undergoing evaluation, Nelson said.

“Once the response is complete and the platform is deemed safe for folks to be on board, we’ll be cooperating in a full investigation with both federal and state authorities,” she said.

The cause of the blaze was still under investigation, according to responders, who included Coast Guard and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation personnel.

Mike McNeil, a Coast Guard civilian command duty officer in Anchorage, said the agency overheard radio communications by vessels reporting smoke in an area at 8:30 a.m. Hilcorp reported the fire after that.

The Coast Guard said five vessels were involved in fighting the fire and the agency dispatched a cutter, helicopter and another aircraft.

Cook Inlet stretches 180 miles from Anchorage to the Gulf of Alaska.

The Baker platform is among 10 in the inlet that Hilcorp purchased in January 2012. Of those, nine are active in production, with many old wells reactivated, according to Nelson. The Baker platform is among those reactivated, with minimum production from just one well, she said.

Cathy Foerster, one of three members of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said the company has been considering whether to activate more wells in the inlet.

“Now they’ll have to weigh into that consideration whatever costs are associated with fixing whatever the fire impact is,” Foerster said.

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