UPDATE: Gas well on fire in Gulf of Mexico, 44 evacuated

The Associated Press reports an "out-of-control" natural gas well is on fire in the Gulf of Mexico:

An out-of-control natural gas well off the Louisiana coast continued to burn Wednesday after it caught fire following a blowout that prompted the evacuation of 44 workers, authorities said.

Meanwhile, officials stressed that Tuesday's blowout wouldn't be close to as damaging as the 2010 BP oil spill, in which an oil rig, the Deepwater Horizon, exploded off the Louisiana coast, killing 11 workers and eventually spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

No injuries were reported as a result of Tuesday night's fire, Eileen Angelico, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, told The Associated Press.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement says reports the blowout occured at Well A-3 below a "Hercules 265 jack-up rig," about 55 miles off the Louisiana coast. via NPR

We'll keep an eye on this story as it develops.

UPDATE: The rig is now collapsing. WWLTV reports that, "Walter Oil & Gas is hiring a jack-up rig to start drilling a relief well at the site."

UPDATE II: The Huffington Post reported on how these risks differ from those from an oil rig:

University of Georgia marine scientist Samantha "Mandy" Joye also said the pollution and health dangers posed by a gas well are quite different than those posed at the well where the Deepwater Horizon rig blew up in 2010, killing 11 people and spewing millions of gallons of oil for weeks.

"The biggest danger from gas is that it is extremely flammable. At high concentration, gas exposure can cause health issues (vomiting, headaches, and worse) but such high levels are not likely to be reached in warm, shallow waters," Joye wrote in an email response to questions.

UPDATE III: Here is video of the fire via Mediate via Fox News.

UPDATE IV: Good news. The fire is now under control. The LA Times reports on how sand and sediment was used to fill the gas leak, which was the source of the fire.

Meanwhile, Chelsea B. Sheasley at CS Monitor recaps how this incident has renewed concerns about the safety of offshore oil and gas drilling, in particular regarding the blowout preventer:

The rig’s owner, Hercules Offshore, told The Wall Street Journal that the crew tried to shut down the well using a blowout preventer, but weren’t able to complete the work before they had to evacuate for their safety.

The blowout preventer, designed to shut off out-of-control oil and gas wells, draws particular scrutiny because it was the blowout preventer on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that failed to work properly, leading to the biggest offshore oil spill in US history.

Harry R. Weber at FuelFix notes that an executive of the rig operator is one of President Obama's biggest critics for efforts to make offshore drilling more safe.

James Noe is executive vice president of Hercules Offshore Inc., which operates the rig that caught fire off Louisiana late Tuesday.

He also is executive director of the Shallow Water Energy Security Coalition, an advocacy group that just three months ago issued a statement that suggested regulators were being too tough on the industry. The group is comprised of exploration and development companies, drilling contractors and service companies.

“Ramping up the issuance of incidents of non-compliance for often trivial infractions is no substitute for technically substantive oversight – and threatens to take our eye off the ball on what is really important: what’s going on at the drill floor and in the well,” the group said in April.

The statement takes on new relevance now.

It certainly does.

Tags: Natural Gas