August 3, 2013

Blowout and Fire on Natural Gas Rig in Gulf of Mexico

A fire is seen on the Hercules 265 drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, Wednesday, July 24, 2013. 

Natural gas spewed uncontrolled from the well after a blowout that forced the evacuation of 44 workers aboard the drilling rig. 

The executive VP of the company that owns the offshore natural gas rig is an active critic of stronger offshore drilling regulations. 

The owner of a natural gas drilling rig aflame off of Louisiana's coast said preparations were underway for the possible drilling of a relief well to divert gas from the site and bring the well under control.
Adam Bourgoyne, a former dean of Louisiana State University's petroleum engineering department, said such an effort is a complicated task that could take weeks to complete.
The relief well team has to figure out questions such as where to intercept the well bore and what tools will be needed. The surface team has to figure out whether it's safe to get onto the platform, how much debris there is and how it can be removed, he said.
The blowout, which prompted the safe evacuation of 44 workers, occurred at a drilling rig adjacent to a natural gas platform that wasn't producing gas at the time. The rig was completing a ''sidetrack well,'' which drills into the same well hole under the platform. Such wells are used to remedy an obstruction or to access a different part of the gas reserve.
Gas spewed throughout the day and ignited late Tuesday night. The cause of the blowout was under investigation, one being overseen by the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
By Wednesday evening, the derrick and drill floor structure had collapsed. A fireboat was pumping water on the rig in an effort to keep as much of it as cool as possible.
Though federal officials confirmed the gas flow had stopped on Thursday morning, the accident raises serious concerns about the safety improvements taken since the disaster caused by a blowout three years ago aboard the Deepwater Horizon.

On Tuesday morning in the Gulf of Mexico, the Hercules 265 drilling rig had been drilling a natural gas well and when gas began spewing uncontrollably (video) from the well, the crew of the rig tried to use a blowout preventer to shut down the well's flow of gas. This is the same device that failed to close the out-of-control oil well under the Deepwater Horizon, and the blowout preventer under the Hercules 265 also failed to shut down the flow of gas.

Once the conditions aboard the rig became too dangerous, all 44 workers evacuated on two lifeboats. They watched the uncontrolled gas continue to jet into the atmosphere, and the rig caught fire Tuesday night. It burned through Wednesday, and some time Wednesday evening or Thursday morning, sand or debris shifted underwater and "bridged over", which seemingly plugged the leaking well. The fire has slowly dissipated as the remaining gas burned up.
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