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Gulf of Mexico rig on fire after blowout - crew successfully evacuated

24 July 2013

On July 23, 44 workers were evacuated from a jack-up rig in the Gulf of Mexico after a natural gas blowout from the well on which the rig was working. Escaping gas ignited later that night causing an explosion witnessed by a Coast Guard vessel nearby. The rig owner, Hercules Offshore, said its Hercules 265 rig is operating for Walter Oil & Gas Corp.

Hercules 265 enveloped in a gas cloud before the explosion - Photo: BSEE
Hercules 265 enveloped in a gas cloud before the explosion - Photo: BSEE

Crew members aboard the Hercules 265 jackup rig were preparing a sidetrack well for production when they hit an unexpected pocket of gas, according to local sources, which caused the blowout. 

No one was injured in the evacuation, and no oil was spilled, said Tim O’Leary, a spokesman for Walter Oil & Gas.

"Our first and foremost concern is for the safety of all personnel aboard our drilling rig and we have taken every necessary precaution to safely evacuate the rig.  Furthermore, efforts are ongoing with our client, Walter Oil & Gas, to mobilize the necessary resources to regain control of the well and minimize any potential impact on the environment," said John T. Rynd, CEO and President of Hercules Offshore.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) said the well is 55 miles off the coast of Louisiana in 154 feet of water. Bureau inspectors reported a dissipating light sheen on the Gulf surface, 50 feet by one-half mile in size.

A firefighting vessel with water and foam capabilities had been dispatched to the scene. Wild Well Control Inc. has been hired to try to bring the well under control, according to AP.

The accident comes after a Talos Energy well leak earlier this month.  Responders stopped the leak after four days, installing a metal plug and pumping cement into the well.

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