One day after BP agreed to a $4 billion settlement over the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, we have news of another oil rig blowing up off the coast of Louisiana. On Friday (today) an explosion and fire ripped through an oil platform owned by Black Elk Energy, the explosion injured at least four people, some going to the hospital with burns, and at least two others are missing. According to some reports, two people have died.
The oil platform involved in today’s explosion was located about 20 miles southeast of Grand Isle, LA. That island is a barrier island near the mouth of the Mississippi. The location, 20 miles southeast, puts the platform in open waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
According to reports the platform was in 56 feet of water, and that workers were performing maintenance, using a cutting torch, at the time of the explosion. The rig was not producing oil at the time of the explosion. The workers accidentally cut into a 75 foot three inch oil pipe, triggering the explosion, and a small amount of oil has spilled into the water. Coast Guard Capt. Ed Cubanski told a news conference that a sheen one-half mile long and 200 yards wide was reported in the area.
“It’s not going to be an uncontrolled discharge from everything we’re getting right now,” Cubanski said.
The fire has since been extinguished, and Coast Guard aircraft and boats were searching for two missing people. There are mixed reports over whether anybody was killed in the fire.
Taslin Alfonzo, spokeswoman for West Jefferson Medical Center in suburban New Orleans, said four injured workers were brought to the hospital in critical condition with second- and third-degree burns over much of their bodies.
There are a number of differences between this oil platform explosion, and the one which sunk the Deepwater Horizon two years ago. This platform is in shallow waters, whereas the DH had been in extremely deep waters. This platform is working an established well, whereas the DH was drilling exploratory wells. This explosion occurred on the platform, and the platform is reported to be structurally sound, whereas the DH explosion occurred at the drill head underwater, and the DH platform itself blew up and sank.
A team of Federal environmental enforcement inspectors are flying to the scene.
The Black Elk Energy website has a statement reading “Our thoughts and prayers are with those who are impacted. We have Black Elk personnel on the scene and en route. We are still collecting information at this time. We will release a statement this afternoon when we have more details.”
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