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'Eye of fire' in Gulf of Mexico caused by electrical storm, PEMEX says

06 July 2021

Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) has said that the cause of the ‘eye of fire’ that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico on July 2, was the combination of an electrical storm and gas pipeline leak. The oil company said there was no oil spill and immediate action to control the fire on the surface helped avoid any environmental damage.

Image: Twittter/Manuel Lopez San Martin
Image: Twittter/Manuel Lopez San Martin

The images of the fire, which happened on the ocean surface to the west of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, were shared around the world on social media and drew widespread criticism from environmentalists. No one was injured in the incident and the fire was eventually extinguished after five hours.

On July 5, PEMEX said in a statement on its website that an electrical storm forced the company to shut down pumping equipment on the nearby Ku-C offshore platform. At the same time, a leak on a 12” underwater pipeline caused a build-up of natural gas on the ocean floor which was then most likely ignited by a lightning bolt as it rose to the surface.

After five hours, the fire was completely extinguished by closing the submarine valve and injecting Nitrogen into the gas pipeline, PEMEX said. It added that there was no oil spill, nor any environmental damage.

PEMEX has now started a repair programme for the affected pneumatic pumping line and is carrying out an analysis to identify the root cause of the gas leak in the pipeline.

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