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Gas Leak Ignites, Collapses Rig

Thursday, July 25, 2013

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Natural gas from a drilling rig leaked for 14 hours before igniting and partially collapsing the structure off the coast of Louisiana on Tuesday (July 23).

All 44 crew members aboard the rig were safely evacuated Tuesday afternoon and no injuries have been reported. The cause of the leak has not been determined.

oil rig fire
U.S. Coast Guard

A drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico started leaking natural gas Tuesday morning and burst into flames later that evening. All 44 crew members safely evacuated.

Owned by Hercules Offshore Inc., the 250-foot, mat-supported cantilevered Hercules 265 jackup drilling rig is currently operating for Walter Oil & Gas Corporation.

The drilling rig is located 55 miles off the shore of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico in 154 feet of water in the same drilling region where BP's Deepwater Horizon offshore rig exploded in April 2010, killing 11 workers and causing the largest offshore spill in history.

Cloud of Gas

The rig "experienced a loss of control" at approximately 8:45 a.m. CT Tuesday on an unmanned platform while doing completion work on the sidetrack well to prepare for production, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

No oil (only gas) had been released, according to a statement on Tuesday from Walter Oil & Gas.

BSEE inspectors performed an overflight during the day Tuesday and reported a cloud of natural gas above the rig and a light sheen on the water about one-half mile by 50 feet, which had dissipated by the evening.

At approximately 10:45 p.m. CT Tuesday, the natural gas flowing from the well ignited, spreading to the rig, Hercules Offshore said in a statement.


On Wings of Care, a nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental protection and preservation, captured this video of natural gas leaking from the rig.

The fire caused the beams supporting the derrick and rig floor to fold and collapse over the rig structure, BSEE announced in an update Wednesday.

Two firefighting vessels were in the area and had to be moved back to a safer distance from the fire. A third vessel, equipped with fire-fighting capability and improved monitoring system, was enroute Wednesday morning.

Experts from Wild Well Control Inc., a firefighting, well control and related engineering services company, was hired to try to bring the well under control.

"BSEE's efforts today are focused on bringing the loss of well control event to a safe resolution," said Lars Herbst, BSEE Gulf of Mexico Regional Director, in a press release.

BSEE has directed Walter Oil & Gas to begin preparations to move a jackup rig on location to drill a relief well to cut off the natural gas.

"Offshore oil and gas operators need to reaffirm their aggressive approach to the safety of well operations in light of this event and recent well control events," Herbst said.

Hercules Offshore

A cloud of natural gas can be seen leaking from the rig. No oil was released in the incident.

The U.S. Coast Guard was on hand to provide safety management oversight. BSEE will be conducting an investigation into the cause of the incident.

Taking Necessary Precaution

While Hercules Offshore said it is working with regulatory authorities to determine the cause of the incident, immediate focus was on stopping the flow of natural gas from the well.

"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," said John T. Rynd, CEO and president of Hercules Offshore, in a statement on Tuesday.

"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," Rynd said.

The rig's rated drilling depth is 25,000 feet, according to Hercules Offshore. The company's rigs drill to water depths between 15,000 and 35,000 feet.

Hercules Offshore is headquartered in Houston, TX, and operates a fleet of 40 jackup rigs and 13 posted and conventional barge drilling rigs. The company provides drilling, well service, platform inspection, maintenance and decommissioning operations for oil and gas producers worldwide.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Explosions; Fire; Offshore; Oil and Gas

Comment from Andrew Piedl, (7/25/2013, 10:04 AM)

Still, despite the fact that many of you don't believe in anthropogenic climate change, you can't find any good reason to consider options to alter our habits regarding consumption of fossil fuels.Fortunately no one was killed.

Comment from Jim Johnson, (7/25/2013, 12:17 PM)

Several aircraft have crashed recently, and people have been killed. Does that mean we should alter our habits and quit flying or that government should work towards shutting down the airlines? That makes about as much sense as not consuming fossil fuels, which is what our current government is aimed towards.

Comment from Jay Barstow, (7/26/2013, 10:00 AM)

The BP spill was 1/6 the volume of the Superdome, and yes, it was deplorable, but look at the average human lifespan of this oil impregnated world compared to 200 years ago. I don't think ANYONE in their right mind opposes alternatives, but ROI must be taken into the equation (carbon sequestration or cancer research?) ... personally I'd rather those huge subsidies go away or be invested in fusion energy and micro fission plants (with fracking we don't have to worry about fossil fuels for a while) Ethanol? Get real!!!

Comment from M. Halliwell, (7/26/2013, 10:35 AM)

Andrew, debating the significance of anthropogenic contributions to climate change can (and has) fill volumes...but the average Joe on the street mainly sees what things cost him. Right now, fossil fuels are relatively cheap and quite reliable. If a gallon of gas were $20, there would likely be a strong motivation for change from the public. Right now, it isn't so there isn't that drive. Sure, it would be nice to get away from fossil fuels and I'd love to see the day when uranium-plutonium nuclear reactors are done away with for thorium-uranium ones and we go primarily electric......but finishing what we started in the 50's and 60's with thorium reactors will cost money and the byproducts can't be sold for weaponization...again, no motivation for the average Joe to push for change.

Comment from Tim Race, (7/29/2013, 10:30 AM)

I am a scientist. In college I took a course in organic geochemistry way back in 1979. I studied the imprint of human activity in sedimentary deposits. I understand the scientific process. Climate change is real and is happening on our watch. However, I live in the real world. When this story broke I bought 8000 shares of HERO and have profited nicely. I enjoy the benefits of natural gas which heats my home and warms my water heater. I run my central AC on hot days and am happy for it. Much of my electricity comes from the coal powered generation fleet where my wife is the director of environmental services. Her company produces an affordable product that people want and need. She can sleep at night, and no, they don't kill babies. Coal pays our bills and supports our life style and for that I am thankful. My cars run on fossil fuels. I make concessions. We adjust the thermostat. We no longer heat the swimming pool and have turned off the hot tub. One of our cars is a high MPG clean diesel and the other has a small displacement gasoline engine. We are slowly switching to more efficient CF lights. In the long run all of us will make the transition to an ecologically sustainable world. There will be impacts from climate change but we will survive. And in the mean time we will continue to live in the real world with the eco-terrorists still shouting and the naysayers still bleating.

Comment from John Fauth, (7/29/2013, 11:56 AM)

The single greatest contributor to carbon emissions and anthropological global warming (whatever percentage you may believe that comprises of overall global warming) is having children. Each succeeding generatin pollutes and produces ever greater progeny that pollute. Unless the gloom and doomers are childless, I don't want to hear them whining about fossil fuels or anything else. I'm still wondering how it is that historical global temperatures have been significantly higher than today without any anthropological component. If you really can't control the outcome (or even the pace), why the religous fanatacism?

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