A well connected to an oil and gas production platform caught on fire in the Gulf of Mexico Thursday, engulfing the vessel in flames about 100 miles off the central coast of Louisiana and forcing 13 people overboard, Gov. Bobby Jindal said.
All 13 people have been accounted for, said Petty Officer Bill Colclough of the Coast Guard. They were found floating on a raft, officials said. Mariner Energy, which owns the Vermilion Oil Rig 380, said none of the crew members was hurt in the incident, despite earlier reports of a single injured worker.
Also, Mariner indicated that the fire — which was first reported to the Coast Guard by workers on a nearby rig around 9:20 a.m. (10:20 a.m. ET) — was not sparked by an explosion. It started at one of the platform’s seven active wells, the company said, though its cause is under investigation.
The company said an initial flyover of the site indicated “no hydrocarbon spill.” However, Coast Guard Petty Officer Elizabeth Bordelon said there is a sheen on the water at the site of the platform, measuring about 100-feet wide and stretching for one mile.
The fire at the platform is not out yet, but it has been contained, she said.
Jindal said that Mariner has told him that all seven wells have been closed off and that what is burning now is from fuel in storage, and not from an active leak.
During the last week of August, production from the platform averaged approximately 9.2 million cubic feet of natural gas a day and 1,400 barrels (58,800 gallons) of oil, the company said.
David Reed, a paramedic on board a nearby oil rig, said he suddenly saw “a bunch of smoke” from the direction of the Vermilion platform, and radios in his rig’s control room started “lighting up like a Christmas tree” soon after.
The first report of the fire came from Rotorcraft Leasing, a company that provides helicopter services for the industry, the Coast Guard said.
The incident comes nearly five months after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded April 20, killing 11 people and causing a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico — one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history.
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