HOUSTON, July 24 A shallow-water drilling rig in
the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana was on fire on
Wednesday after natural gas flowing from a ruptured well
ignited, authorities said.
The U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said
the fire ignited on Hercules Offshore Inc's jackup rig
shortly before 11 p.m. CDT on Tuesday (0400 GMT). The U.S. Coast
Guard said it was still burning on Wednesday morning.
No one was on board the rig when it caught fire, BSEE said.
Hercules said on Wednesday that the company was working to
plug the well, which ruptured on Tuesday morning, and it did not
know the extent of the rig damage. Neither Hercules nor BSEE yet
knew the cause of the fire.
Hercules said it might drill a relief well, which would
intersect the ruptured well and provide another avenue for
cement to plug it.
Shares of Hercules Offshore fell more than 5 percent to
$7.29 on news of the fire.
The company said it was working with the well owner,
privately held Walter Oil & Gas, and regulators to find out why
the rig ignited. "Our immediate focus is on stopping the flow of
natural gas," Hercules said.
The rig had been preparing the well for production on
Tuesday when it ruptured, releasing natural gas, but no oil.
Hercules said 44 people were evacuated from the rig, and no one
The rig is in 154 feet (47 m) of water about 55 miles (88.5
km) south of the coast of Louisiana.
BSEE has tightened safety regulations for offshore oil and
gas operations since the BP Plc 2010 blowout and oil
spill that spewed more than 4 million barrels of crude into the
Gulf. It took BP nearly three months to cap that ruptured well,
which was ultimately killed and plugged by way of a relief well.
The rig is a jackup rig, which has moveable legs that can be
extended to move the hull above the surface of the water. Unlike
floating rigs in deeper waters, the legs on jackups reach the
Analysts at CapitalOne Southcoast in New Orleans noted that
the jackup market remains very tight, so "if the rig suffers
major damage this should have a positive impact on day rates.
They also noted that Hercules has rigs in storage that could be
used to replace the damaged one.