WRAPUP 3-U.S. Government probes Mariner platform fire

Fri Sep 3, 2010 4:40pm EDT

 * Small sheen found, likely not a leak - government
 * U.S. investigators have boarded the facility
 * Mariner shares close up nearly 2 percent
 * Mariner fire an "industrial accident"-Salazar
 (Adds closing share price, Salazar comment, changes byline)
 By Bruce Nichols
 HOUSTON, Sept 3 (Reuters) - The U.S. government on Friday
launched an investigation into Mariner Energy Inc's ME.N Gulf
of Mexico platform fire, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
 A light oil sheen spotted near the offshore facility was
not believed to be a leak and is thought to be related to
Thursday's efforts to extinguish the fire, an agency spokesman
said. [ID:nWEN9400]
 Investigators have boarded the damaged facility and were
working to verify it is not leaking crude oil into the Gulf. No
additional information was immediately available.
 The cause of the fire, which forced the evacuation of the
oil and gas production platform's 13-member crew, is not yet
known.
 On Thursday, Mariner's platform burst into flames. The
accident follows BP Plc's (BP.L) (BP.N) disastrous Macondo well
rupture on April 20 which caused the death of 11 workers and
unleashed the world's worst offshore oil spill.
 Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told reporters in Anchorage
on Friday the Mariner fire appeared to be "another industrial
accident," and was not comparable to the BP spill.
[ID:nN02247473]
 Even so, the U.S. government promised a vigorous probe.
 "We will use all available resources to ensure that we find
out what happened, how it happened, and what enforcement action
should be taken if any laws or regulations were violated,"
Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy
Management, said in a statement.
 <^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
  Take a Look on Mariner platform fire  [ID:nN02243726]
  Graphic showing location of Mariner platform
  link.reuters.com/dew98n
  Factbox on comparisons between Mariner and BP accidents
  [ID:nN02233904]
  Reuters Insider video on Coast Guard finding no leak
  link.reuters.com/cuq39n
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 The platform is located about 100 miles (160 km) south of
Vermilion, Louisiana, in shallow water. The facility is not
affected by the U.S. government's six-month deepwater drilling
moratorium, which only applies to rigs, not production
platforms.
 Automated shut-off equipment turned off the flow of oil and
gas from the platform's seven producing wells, according to the
company.
 The fire was the fifth reported at offshore sites operated
by Mariner since October 2006, according to government data.
 None of the earlier fires caused fatalities, although
workers were injured in two of the accidents. The company also
suffered a blowout while drilling a well about 90 miles (145
km) off the Louisiana coast in May 2008, but the situation was
brought under control within a few hours.
 The Vermilion platform was last inspected in January and
was found to have three minor compliance violations, government
data showed.
 Shares of Mariner closed nearly 2 percent higher at $23.16
on the New York Stock Exchange.
 (Additional reporting by Kristen Hays in Houston and Yereth
Rosen in Anchorage, writing by Anna Driver; Editing by Sofina
Mirza-Reid)


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