A fire broke out, on Tuesday morning, on a rig drilling for natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico, 55 miles off the coast of Louisiana, forcing 44 workers to evacuate from the platform, U.S. federal officials said.
U.S. Coast Guard and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, or BSEE, are still assessing potential hazards, and the cause of ignition, a BSEE statement said on Tuesday. The portable rig is operated by Hercules, under a contract with the exploration and production company, Walter Oil & Gas Corporation.
“Walter Oil and Gas Corporation experienced a loss of control of Well A-3 at approximately 8:45 a.m. (Tuesday) on an unmanned platform at South Timbalier Block 220 while doing completion work on the sidetrack well to prepare the well for production,” BSEE said. “The operator reported the safe evacuation of 44 personnel, corrected from earlier reports of 47, from the Hercules 265 jack-up rig.”
There were no immediate reports of any casualty or injuries in the fire, but natural gas continued to flow out of the well, according to BSEE.
Officials reported a cloud of natural gas above the rig and a light sheen on the water surrounding the rig that was rapidly dissipating.
“BSEE’s efforts today are focused on bringing this loss of well control event to a safe resolution,” Lars Herbst, BSEE Gulf of Mexico Regional Director, was quoted as saying in the official statement. “Offshore oil and gas operators need to re-affirm their aggressive approach to the safety of well operations in light of this event and other recent well control events.”
In April 2010, the Gulf was hit by the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion, leading to the collapse of the rig and millions of gallons of oil spreading through the region, making it the worst offshore disaster in U.S. history.
In November 2012, another oil rig in the area exploded, killing one, injuring 11 and causing 28 gallons of oil to spill into the sea.