Explosion on another Gulf of Mexico oil platform
By Matt Davis, The Associated Press.
An oil platform explosion today in the Gulf of Mexico forced the crew to jump into the sea and threatened further damage to waters still recovering from the BP disaster.
Fire engulfed the offshore platform 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of the Louisiana coast shortly after 9:00 am (1400 GMT) and massive plumes of gray smoke billowed into the sky as rescuers rushed to fish out the workers.
Photographs showed the 13-strong crew linking arms as they bobbed up and down in special flotation suits before being plucked out by helicopters and taken to a nearby rig and on to a mainland hospital.
All escaped serious injury.
Workers told rescue crews that they managed to shut down the wells before evacuating the platform and had spotted a thin sheen of oil spreading for about a mile (1.6 kilometers.)
Fire crews managed to extinguish the blaze after about five hours and the oil sheen was no longer visible by the time the Coast Guard arrived.
“The fire is out, and Coast Guard helicopters on scene and vessels on scene have no reports of a visible sheen in the water,” Captain Peter Troedsson, chief of staff for the Eighth Coast Guard District, told reporters.
“There’s no report or any evidence of leaks, but we continue to investigate and to monitor that situation to make sure that that doesn’t change.”
The incident ignited fresh criticism of the oil and gas industry as the region struggles to recover from the BP disaster, which was the largest ever maritime oil spill.
“The BP disaster was supposed to be the wake up call, but we hit the snooze button. Today the alarm went off again,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement.
“The oil industry continues to rail against regulation but it’s become all too clear that the current approach to offshore drilling is simply too dangerous.”
“How many times are we going to gamble with lives, economies and ecosystems?” said John Hocevar, Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director. “It’s time we learn from our mistakes and go beyond oil.”
The Mariner Energy platform which caught fire Thursday was operating in relatively shallow water, about 340 feet (103 meters), and was not drilling at the time of the explosion, the Texas-based company said.
It had been producing approximately 1,400 barrels of oil and condensate and 9.2 million cubic feet of natural gas per day.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said Mariner told him that the fire started in one of seven active wells on the platform and that “all seven are shut in right now.”
The White House said it was monitoring the situation and reserved judgment until more information was available.
“We will continue to gather information as we respond, we obviously have response assets ready for deployment, should we receive reports of pollution in the water,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.
Gibbs declined to say whether the president believed inspections of rigs in the Gulf of Mexico was moving fast enough in the wake of the BP disaster.
“Obviously we’ve had taken some, we took a series of steps after the BP incident,” Gibbs said.
“If this situation warrants, we’ll certainly update that.”
It was also not clear how this incident would affect Obama’s moratorium on offshore drilling, which is being challenged in the courts and has faced harsh criticism from his political foes.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has held a congressional investigation into the BP spill, sent a swift letter to Marina Energy’s chairman requesting a briefing on the incident.
“In the wake of the BP catastrophe, this is an extremely disturbing event,” said committee chairman Henry Waxman.
“I call on the administration to immediately redouble safety reviews of all offshore drilling and platform operations in the gulf and take all appropriate action to ensure safety and protection of the environment.”