By BEN LEFEBVRE, ALISON SIDER and KEITH JOHNSON
HOUSTON -- An oil and gas platform exploded and caught fire off
the coast of Louisiana on Friday, injuring 11, leaving two
missing and resulting in a two-by-a-quarter mile oil sheen
around the site, the US Coast Guard said.
Coast Guard spokesman Jonathan Lally said it is possible the
two missing people went overboard, and several commercial
vessels are participating in the search. Mr. Lally said there
are "no confirmed fatalities," and the fire on the platform was
The platform is located in shallow water 25 miles off Grand
Isle, La. in the offshore West Delta 32 block in the US Gulf of
Mexico. It is owned by Black Elk Energy, an independent
Houston-based oil and gas company. The company didn't reply to
requests for comment.
Mr. Lally said four people injured in the explosion were
flown to the West Jefferson Parish Medical Center in Marrero,
La. Taslin Alfonzo, a medical center spokeswoman, said the four
patients were in critical condition; two are being moved to the
Baton Rouge General Burn Center while the other two will be
moved there in four to six hours.
Another Coast Guard spokesman, Carlos Vega, said another two
people were flown to the Terrebonne General Medical Center, and
two were flown to the Lady of the Sea General Hospital, in Cut
A spokesman for the Terrebonne hospital said that the facility
has received two patients "and they are in good conditions."
The Lady of the Sea General Hospital didn't respond to calls
Three people were also flown to Grand Isle to be picked up
by an ambulance, Mr. Vega said, adding that there were 26 to 28
people aboard the platform when the blast occurred. Mr. Vega
added that there was an oil sheen around the platform.
Black Elk Energy CEO John Hoffman told Houston news station
KPRC that the explosion was set off when sparks from a
torch the workers were using to cut a line on the platform hit
a storage tank, which then exploded.
Five workers remain in hospitals, while two have been
released, Mr. Hoffman told station. No fatalities have been
confirmed, Mr. Hoffman said.
About 16 barrels of oil leaked from the platform into the
water, Mr. Hoffman said. Black Elk was sending response boats
to the scene, he added.
A spokeswoman for the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental
Enforcement, which oversees the safety of offshore operations
in federal waters, said inspectors from the agency are on route
to the platform.
BSEE investigated Black Elk last year for a small fire on
one of its offshore production rigs. In February 2011, an
improperly enclosed rechargeable battery started a fire on a
Black Elk platform, according to an accident report archived by
The safety agency recommended that Black Elk review how it
stores batteries on platforms to minimize the chances of
internal shorts and possible fires.
Black Elk was also investigated for a crane accident in
August 2012, when an improperly repaired winch let loose.
Black Elk was the company that BSEE chose to carry out its
first-ever virtual safety audit in November 2011. The federal
agency carried out an Internet-based audit of Black Elk's
Safety and Environmental Management Systems, which are meant to
enhance the safety of offshore operations by minimizing human
error and reducing the frequency of accidents.
Though they were strengthened in the wake of the Deepwater
Horizon accident, those safety rules had been in the works for
years to make the industry more proactive in fostering a safety
culture. There is no information on the results of the BSEE
virtual audit of Black Elk.
Mr. Hoffman, the company's CEO, began his career with Amoco,
which had been acquired by BP by the time he left in 1999. He
founded Black Elk in 2007 and a year later it landed its first
Last month, Black Elk announced plans to ramp up operations
in Gulf of Mexico by starting drilling on 23 new wells.
Dow Jones Newswires
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