By ALISON SIDER and TOM FOWLER
The drilling rig that caught fire off the coast of Louisiana
Tuesday night has started to collapse in on itself as natural
gas continues to spew out of the shallow-water well it was
drilling, federal regulators said Wednesday.
Two firefighting vessels that were in the area had to move
away from the burning rig, the federal Bureau of Safety and
Environmental Enforcement said in a statement, adding that a
third firefighting ship is heading to the site.
Walter Oil & Gas, which leased the well, is preparing to
move another drilling rig nearby in case a relief well is
needed to stop the flow of gas, regulators said.
The rig, owned by Houston-based Hercules Offshore, was
evacuated Tuesday morning after the well it was drilling blew
out. All 44 crewmembers evacuated safely from the rig, which
was located in 154 feet of water about 55 miles off Grand Isle,
Louisiana. The gas ignited about 10:50 p.m. local time on
Tuesday, regulators said.
Analysts said the rig was equipped with blowout preventers,
the safety equipment that is meant to shut off out-of-control
oil and gas wells. A spokesman for Walter Oil & Gas
initially said the blowout preventer appeared to have failed,
but the company later said it was still investigating the
incident and wouldn't know the cause of the blowout, or why the
well continues to flow, for some time.
The failure of a blowout preventer far below the sea was
implicated in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion, which
killed 11 workers and led to the biggest offshore oil spill in
Tuesday's incident came after workers lost control of
another well earlier this month in the shallow waters of the
Gulf of Mexico, where workers were in the process of plugging
an aging well owned by Talos Energy. That well leaked a small
amount of gas and liquid before it was plugged.
Dow Jones Newswires