Déjà Vu All Over Again: Offshore Oil Platform Explodes in Gulf of Mexico [Updated x5]

oil-rig-explosion-image map

Image: Google Maps
Thankfully, No Deaths This Time
An offshore oil platform exploded and caught fire today in the Gulf of Mexico. It is located about 80 miles off the Louisiana coast, west of the site of BP's massive oil spill. All 13 people who were on the rig were evacuated and only one was injured, reports the U.S. Coast Guard.
burning mariner oil rig gulf mexico photo

Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

According to the WSJ:

The Vermilin platform was operating in about 340 feet of water, according to the spokeswoman. That means its drilling activities weren't suspended under the Obama administration's ban on deepwater drilling. That ban covers activities in depths of 500 feet or more. (source)

But AP has some contradictory information:

The platform owned by Mariner Energy is in about 2,500 feet of water, the Coast Guard said, and was not currently producing. (source)

So was it in deep or shallow waters? Was it producing, or not? Did it find oil and/or gas, or was it a dry hole?

So it's not currently 100% clear if there is a chance of another oil spill. Probably not, because a lot of things would have to go wrong again, but after the past few months, we know that it's not impossible...

Update: The New York Times reports that "Government officials said the Mariner platform had not been involved in any recent oil and gas production, and that it had been undergoing maintenance work."

Update 2: The latest news are that an oil sheen about a mile long has been detected near the oil rig. "It was unclear how much oil was leaking, and whether it was spilling from the damaged platform or welling up from beneath the surface of the Gulf. [...] Coast Guard officials said the sheen measured one mile long by 100 feet wide." (source)

Update 3: CNN reports that the Mariner platform has been producing " 9.2 million cubic feet of natural gas a day and 1,400 barrels (58,800 gallons) of oil [a day]" during the last week of August. This makes it unlikely that the platform wasn't connected to a well when it exploded today.

But - good news if it's true - Mariner says 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."

Update 4: It doesn't look like Mariner has a very good safety record when it comes to offshore drilling: "Mariner involved in 13 Gulf accidents since '06, seven with violations" (this includes a blowout and four fires).

Update 5: False alert, apparently. The Coast Guard is now backing off from the earlier claim that there was a 1 mile long oil sheen spotted near the rig.

Coast Guard Cmdr. Cheri Ben-Iesau said Thursday afternoon that crews was unable to confirm the oil sheen. The Coast Guard says platform owner Mariner Energy reported a sheen about a mile long and 100 feet wide. But the company has said in a statement that an initial flyover didn't find an oil spill. (source)

This doesn't mean that there's no oil for sure, just that if there is, the Coast Guard couldn't spot it.

The fire was extinguished around 3 PM CDT. Mariner's people are now saying that there was "no explosion", and that they are investigating the cause of the fire.

Via WSJ, AP, G&M;

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