Sunday 18 November 2012

Two feared dead after explosion on oil rig in Gulf of Mexico.

Two workers are feared dead after an explosion on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday 16 November 2012. The men, described as Philippine nationals, reportedly jumped from the rig following an explosion during maintenance work. There is not thought to be any danger of a major oil spill, as the rig was not in operation at the time of the explosion. 

Image of the oil platform burning in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday. Reuters/KLFY TV10.

The rig's owners, Black Elk Energy, have issued a statement to the effect that the explosion was caused when a worker mistakenly attempted to cut through a pipe containing oil with a welding torch. The company has also emphasized that none of their own employees were on the rig at the time of the incident, the work was being carried out by contractors from Grand Isle Shipyard Inc. Eleven workers were airlifted from the rig by the US Coast Guard following the incident.

A body has reportedly been found near the platform by divers, and is thought to be one of the missing men. Four other workers remain in hospital in Lousiana, two of whom are described as being in a critical condition. These men are also Philippines nationals.

Some oils has been seen on the water near the rig, but this is thought to be residual oil in the pipe which was cut, an amount comparable to that found in the fuel tank of a large car, there is no reason to expect an on-going crisis, as with the 2010 BP spill in the Mexican Gulf, since the rig has not been in operation since August. Parallels between the two incidents have been made widely, unsurprising since the event comes a day after BP were ordered to pay US$4.5 billion in fines and damages relating to the incident, but the two rigs are not particularly similar; the BP rig was a deep-sea drilling operation, standing in 1500 m of water, 250 km from the coast, whereas the Black Elk rig is in shallow water, with a depth of 17 m, 32 km offshore, making for a rather different set of engineering constraints. 

An investigation will now be carried out by the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

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