Natural gas rig suffers major blowout, then explodes, in the Gulf (with photos)

The Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in 2010 did little to slow the growth of oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, even as more bad news continues to come out about how that spill and the botched use of dispersant hammered the coastal environment. Nor were safety measures greatly enhanced — so it’s not surprising to see new, alarming reports of spills and mishaps.

Today, a natural gas platform on the Gulf off of Louisiana suffered a major blow out and spill — and the aftermath was captured on film by Bonny Schumaker of On Wings of Care, who continues to fly over the Gulf and keep the public informed on what is happening. Last night, the situation deteriorated with the Coast Guard reporting the burning rig had exploded. Here’s the update:

 A natural gas platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico late Tuesday, the U.S. Coast Guard reported.

The rig, leased by Houston-based Walter Oil & Gas Corp., was burning about 60 miles southwest of Grand Isle, Louisiana, early Wednesday, according to Petty Officer Carlos Vega. A Coast Guard vessel witnessed the blast.

Here’s an earlier report on the initial blowout:

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Natural gas flowed uncontrolled from a well off the Louisiana coast on Tuesday after a blowout that forced the evacuation of 47 workers aboard a drilling rig, authorities said.

No injuries or fires were reported. The federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said inspectors flying over the site Tuesday saw a light sheen covering an area about a half-mile by 50 feet. However, it was dissipating quickly.

The bureau says the blowout happened south of Grand Isle, about 55 miles offshore, where the water depth was reported as 154 feet…

Tuesday’s blowout occurred near an unmanned offshore gas platform that was not currently producing natural gas, said Eileen Angelico, spokeswoman for the bureau. The workers were aboard a portable drilling rig known as a jackup rig, operated by Hercules Offshore. Hercules said in a news release that it was operating the rig for Walter Oil & Gas Corp.

Bonny Schumaker provides us additional information, via email:

News came to us just as we landed from a picturesque six-hour flight on the Sabine River between Texas and Louisiana tracking endangered swallow-tailed kites: the Hercules Offshore drilling platform #265 located about 100 nm south of New Orleans had experienced a blowout this morning around 10am CDT. Lifeboats were used to evacuate 44 workers, none of whom experienced serious injuries.  We flew out there at around 2pm and found only about a mile of very light surface sheen to the east of the platform, which would support public statements that “only” natural gas is leaking at this time.

She also shot a video of the situation, which you can see here.

It’s great that no one was hurt in the incident, and hopefully Bonny’s assessment that the spill is not major, for now, will hold up in the hours ahead. Still, the Gulf is not an infinite resource, and one should be worried about the increased flow of recent reports of new leaks as well as problems at older sites like the Taylor Energy spill. With drilling expanding, not only is another major BP-style disaster more of a possibility, but we’re also seeing this great natural resource dying a death of 1,000 cuts.

 

To read more about today’s Hercules rig explosion, please read: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/23/gulf-of-mexico-gas-leak_n_3640398.html?utm_hp_ref=green

To see Bonnie Schumaker’s photos on the On Wings of Care website, go to: http://www.onwingsofcare.org/index.php/protection-a-preservation/gulf-of-mexico-oil-spill-2010/gulf-2013/418-20130723-hercules-rig-explosion-gom.html

You can watch her video of the blowout site at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7JDiUKhLLo

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