Crews wait for chance to tackle fire on Gulf gas well

AP, NEW ORLEANS

Thu, Jul 25, 2013 - Page 7

An out-of-control natural gas well off the Louisiana coast caught fire late on Tuesday, hours after 44 workers were safely evacuated from the drilling rig following a mid-morning blowout, a US federal agency confirmed.

No injuries were reported as a result of the fire, Eileen Angelico, a spokeswoman for the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), told reporters.

She said it was not known what caused the gas to ignite. It also was not clear early yesterday how and when crews would attempt to extinguish the blaze. The bureau said on Tuesday that a firefighting vessel with water and foam capabilities had been dispatched to the scene.

Wild Well Control Inc was hired to try to bring the well under control. Angelico said Wild Well personnel approached the well earlier on Tuesday night, before the fire, but they determined it was unsafe to get closer when they were about 60m away from it.

The gas blowout was reported on Tuesday morning.

The US Coast Guard kept nautical traffic out of an area within 500m of the site throughout the day. The US Federal Aviation Administration restricted aircraft up to 600m above the area.

BSEE said inspectors flying over the site soon after the blowout saw a light sheen covering an area about 800m by 15m. However, it was dissipating quickly.

Earlier this month, a gas well off the Louisiana coast flowed for several days before being sealed.

Officials stressed that Tuesday’s blowout would not be close to as damaging as the BP oil spill of 2010, 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. It was the worst offshore environmental disaster in US history.

Chris Roberts, a member of the Jefferson Parish Council in south Louisiana, said the travel restrictions might pose an inconvenience for participants in an upcoming deep sea fishing tournament.

Tuesday’s blowout occurred near an unmanned offshore gas platform that was not currently producing natural gas, Angelico said.