Gulf of Mexico Natural Gas Rig Suffers Blowout, Catches Fire


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The operator of the natural gas rig burning out of control in the Gulf of Mexico has begun preparations to move a jack-up rig to the location to potentially drill a relief well, federal authorities said Wednesday morning. The rig suffered a blowout Tuesday morning and caught fire later Tuesday night when the leaking natural gas ignited, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement confirmed early Wednesday morning.
No one was on board at the time of the ignition and no one was injured, according to BSEE. The burning rig is southwest of Grand Isle, about 55 miles offshore, authorities said.
Under BSEE's direction, Houston-based Walter Oil & Gas Corp., the operator of the rig, has begun preparations to move a jack-up rig on location to potentially drill a relief well, according to BSEE.
Both BSEE and Coast Guard officials flew over the site on Wednesday morning and BSEE stated that there was no sheen observed on the water surface. A sheen a mile long by 50 feet wide had been reported during a flyover Tuesday.
As the rig fire continues, the beams supporting the derrick and rig floor have folded and have collapsed over the rig structure, BSEE stated on Wednesday morning.
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The Coast Guard confirmed that the well ignited at 10:45 p.m. Tuesday and BSEE stated that the source of the ignition remained unknown on Wednesday morning.
Jim Noe, an executive vice president with rig owner Hercules Offshore, said on Wednesday morning that the well was about 8,000-feet below the surface of the seafloor.
"This is not going to be another BP oil spill." - Terrebonne President Michel Claudet
"Our singular focus right now is to regain control of the well," Noe said. "After that, we will look for a root cause to what happened, try to find out how this accident happened in the first place."
The blowout occurred as Walter Oil & Gas was completing work on a "sidetrack well" to prepare that well for new production, according to BSEE. A sidetrack well uses the same hole as the original well but then spreads to a new location at the same depth.
Walter Oil and Gas Corp. engaged Wild Well Control Inc. to help control the leak, Noe said.
Jefferson Parish officials are monitoring the well closely, especially in light of the fact that the Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo starts on Thursday, an event expected to draw more than 15,000 sport and recreational fishers and tourists to Grand Isle. Jefferson Parish Council Chairman Chris Roberts said Wednesday morning that there are no changes expected to the Tarpon Rodeo because of the fire, except that there will be a 5-mile safe zone around the rig.

BSEE had stated on Tuesday that a firefighting vessel was expected to be on location on Tuesday evening with both water and foam fire fighting abilities. The Coast Guard cutter is on the scene maintaining a 500-meter safety zone, "assuring that no vessels or persons get close to the vicinity of the rig so that they aren't placed in danger," Coast Guard Petty Officer Bill Colclough said on Wednesday morning.
The blowout happened about 8:45 a.m. Tuesday. All 44 people on the rig -- which BSEE corrected late Tuesday from earlier reports of 47 people on the rig -- were safely evacuated, authorities said.
The rig is owned by Hercules Offshore, based in Houston, and operated by Walter Oil & Gas, according to BSEE. Until the well ignited late Tuesday, BSEE officials had said that there never was a fire at the well. A cause of the gas leakage remained undetermined, according to BSEE.
"BSEE's efforts today are focused on bringing this loss of well control event to a safe resolution," Lars Herbst, BSEE's Gulf of Mexico regional director, said Tuesday afternoon. "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."
No injuries were reported in the incident on the Hercules No. 265 rig. The workers escaped the rig on two Hercules lifeboats, then transferred to an offshore supply vessel, the Max Cheramie, according to the Coast Guard.
The rig was 55 miles offshore in 154 feet of water, according to BSEE.
Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet said on Tuesday afternoon that the evacuees were taken to Port Fourchon. He said that a unified command center has been established at Louisiana 56 and Woodlawn Ranch Road in Houma.

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"Nothing that I have received to date has caused me to panic in any way or form," Claudet said Tuesday. "This is not going to be another BP oil spill."
Matthew Tarr, the chair of the University of New Orleans chemistry department, said the gas and the fire likely would not impact nearby communities because any chemicals likely would burn off in the fire or dissipate in the atmosphere before reaching land.
Claudet said Witt | O'Brien's is the spill management team and that it is responding to the site with Clean Gulf Associates.
The Coast Guard dispatched an 87-foot cutter, an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from the Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans and one HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft from Coast Guard Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Ala., to assist and monitor the evacuation.
"Our first and foremost concern is for the safety of all personnel aboard our drilling rig and we have taken every necessary precaution to safely evacuate the rig," John T. Rynd, CEO and President of Hercules Offshore, stated on Tuesday morning. "Furthermore, efforts are ongoing with our client, Walter Oil & Gas, to mobilize the necessary resources to regain control of the well and minimize any potential impact on the environment."


Quick, someone get that greenhorn who is super strong and unaffected by fire. Clark something or other.


Registered User
"This is not going to be another BP oil spill." - Terrebonne President Michel Claudet
I would think not, since gas behaves differently than liquid, i.e. it rises to the surface and into the air, rather than mix in with the water.