Oil Slick Reported at Burning Platform in the Gulf

Thursday, 02 September 2010 15:40 By Mike Ludwig and Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t | Report | name.

Update 8:24 am Eastern, Friday:

After initial reports of an oil sheen spreading from the site of the burning Mariner Energy oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, crews have been unable to find any further evidence of a leak, according to the Associated Press.

Update 4:48 pm Eastern

A trail of oil at least a mile long has been reported near an oil and gas production platform in the Gulf of Mexico that exploded and caught fire Thursday morning. Hurricane Ike damaged the platform last year.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Matthew Masaschi told Truthout that Mariner Energy, the firm that owns the platform, reported a sheen of oil about one mile long and 100 feet wide coming from the still burning platform, but the Coast Guard has not confirmed the sighting.

The platform is located 90 miles south of Vermillion Bay off of the coast of Louisiana. The platform is west of the site of the British Petroleum oil rig that exploded in April, killing 11 and causing the largest oil spill in recent history.

Masaschi said Thursday afternoon that six vessels were currently fighting the fire on the platform. The fire was classified as “contained.”

The Coast Guard has rescued all 13 workers who evacuated the platform, and no deaths have been reported.

The platform, called Vermillion 380, was damaged last year during Hurricane Ike, according to a transcript of a November 2009 earnings call the operator and owner of the rig, Mariner Energy, held for investors.

During that call, Patrick Cassidy, Mariner’s Director of Investor Relations, said the company experienced oil and gas production shortfalls “due to a variety of unexpected scenarios.”

“The primary contributor to the production shortfall was construction delays at our Vermillion 380 project on the [Convential] shelf,” Cassidy said. “As you may recall, Vermillion 380 was damaged in Hurricane Ike, and the restoration of the facilities is taking a little longer than we originally expected.”

In other documents the company said “Hurricane Ike damaged the structure with the rig on the platform, causing us to suspend drilling while underwater structural repairs were made.”

Blogger Lindsay Beyerstein reported that Mariner Energy and Apache Energy, another firm with a pending deal to buyout Mariner, together have racked up $750,000 in fines from the Minerals Management Service in 2010 alone.

The Associated Press has confirmed that the platform active and producing at the time of the explosion, clearing up conflicting reports in the media.

During the last week of August, the platform produced an average of approximately 9.2 million cubic feet of natural gas and 1,400 barrels of oil and condensate per day, according to Mariner Energy.

The cause of the fire is unknown and the company is investigating.

The platform is a shallow-water operation in about 340 feet of water.

BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig that blew out and caused the massive environmental disaster in the Gulf was drilling in about 5,000 feet of water.

The Coast Guard said it initially responded after a helicopter pilot reported the fire around 10:00 a.m. The Coast Guard has since rescued all of the 13 workers from the water. The workers were wearing protective suits while in the water.

Masaschi said the workers were being transported from another platform and flown by Coast Guard helicopters to a hospital in Louisiana.

No deaths or injuries have been reported, according to a statement released by Mariner Energy, the firm that owns the platform.

The New York Times, however, reported that one worker was injured during the incident.

Masaschi said the workers need to be treated at the hospital before details about potential injuries would be available.

The platform was not affected by the Obama administration's moratorium on offshore deepwater drilling. Mariner Energy has 195 active drilling leases and describes itself as a leader in exploratory drilling in the Gulf, the Permian Basin and Texas.

More than 200 million gallons of oil from an undersea well spilled into the Gulf in the months following the blowout of BP's Deepwater Horizon rig. The cleanup continues.

Mike Ludwig

Mike Ludwig is a Truthout Fellow.

Last modified on Friday, 03 September 2010 07:25