Hercules rig fire locator map The Hercules 265 fire is in the same drilling region as the Deepwater Horizon incident in 2010, the largest offshore drilling accident in history. Photo: IBTimes

[Update: July 25, 12:05 p.m., EDT] The maritime and offshore industry news website gCaptain says the fire on the Hercules 265 is out. I has soem scathing words to say about the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), accusing it of withholding photos of the burning well and disputes the BSEE's claim firefighters had sprayed a "water curtain" around the burning well, a common technique used to mitigate damage to the structure. Read the screed here.

[Update: July 25, 9:45 a.m., EDT] The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) said Thursday the fire on the Hercules 265 platform has been reduced to a "small flame" after the flow of natural gas that was fuelling the fire was stopped by "bridging." 

The BSEE explained: "Bridging is a well condition where small pieces of sediment and sand flow into the well path and restrict and ultimately stop the flow."

Walter Oil & Gas Corporation, the owner of the well, is working to drill a relief well. Hercules Offshore Inc. is the well operator contracted by Walter. 

[Update: 2:15 p.m. EDT] The U.S. Coast Guard released a photo of the Hercules 265 drilling platform collapsing as the fire rages on Wednesday. 


[Update: 12:55 p.m. EDT] Hercules Offshore Inc. [NASDAQ:HERO] was trading at $7.22 by mid-day Wednesday, down 6.11 percent since the Hercules 265 offshore natural gas drilling rig caught fire late Tuesday. The stock was trading at a 52-week high before news of the natural gas leak reached traders. Hercules reports its second quarter results on July 31.

[Update 12:11 p.m. EDT] The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) said Wednesday that the U.S. Coast Guard is overseeing efforts to extinguish the fire at Hercules 265, a jack-up offshore natural gas rig located about 55 miles off the coast of Louisiana drilling in 154 feet of water.

Here’s the latest news:

- The fire has caused beams supporting the rig floor and the derrick to collapse over the rig structure.

- Two firefighting vessels had to be moved back to a safer distance.

- One Coast Guard cutter is at the scene to establish a security cordon around the rig.

- Walter Oil & Gas Corporation, which owns the rig, is preparing to move to the site another jack-up rig to drill a relief well in order to cut off the natural gas, the source of the fire.

- On the bright side: No sheen has been seen in the waters around the well. 

Original story starts here: 

An offshore drilling rig off the coast of Louisiana caught fire overnight after it began spewing “a cloud of natural gas” that forced the evacuation of 44 crew members, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

A BSEE representative told International Business Times by phone that officials were assessing the situation after confirming Wednesday morning that the gas cloud from the portable drilling rig ignited after a leak occurred around 8:45 a.m. Tuesday. The cloud ignited around 10:50 p.m. Tuesday night.

Firefighting crews have been dispatched to the scene, located in the same drilling region where Deepwater Horizon offshore rig exploded in April 2010, causing the largest offshore spill in history. The latest incident is a different type of well failure.

The rig is operated by Houston-based Hercules Offshore, Inc. (NASDAQ:HERO) on behalf of Houston-based Walter Oil & Gas Corp. The company said early Wednesday it was waiting for daylight to assess the situation at the well, known as Hercules 265.

Lars Herbst, BSEE Gulf of Mexico regional director, issued the following statement about Tuesday’s incident: “Offshore oil and gas operators need to reaffirm their aggressive approach to the safety of well operations in light of this event and other recent well control events.”

The incident is similar to one that occurred last year off the coast of Nigeria, as reported by the maritime and offshore industry news website gCaptain. That fire burned for two months.

The environmental action group On Wings Of Care, which conducts flyovers of environmental accidents,  flew over the rig Tuesday afternoon. Here’s what the group saw: