ROV evaluates safety of Apache platform in gulf

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, Jan. 19 -- Apache Corp. on Jan. 18-19 used a remotely operate vehicle (ROV) to evaluate the cause and source of a hydrocarbon release near East Cameron Block 278 Platform B in about 170 ft of water off Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico.

Workers were on the platform for plugging and abandonment operations of wells when they noticed a hydrocarbon sheen on Jan. 16 and evacuated the platform (OGJ Online, Jan. 18, 2011). Results of the ROV survey will determine the next steps in responding to the water disturbance, Apache said.

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement, which is overseeing Apache’s efforts, said the ROV is gathering information to evaluate the safety issues associated with the platform.

On Jan. 18, BOEMRE said a relief well might be drilled if Apache determined that it was unsafe for crews to return to the platform. The agency gave no details about the suggested relief well.

BOEMRE inspectors conducted a second aerial review Jan. 18 in which they observed no apparent changes to the bubbling and discolored water near the platform.

“The discolored water may possibly be a mixture of sediment from the ocean floor, gas, and formation water. Oil is not believed to be present other than in small amounts of condensate, which quickly evaporates,” the agency said. BOEMRE said it will investigate the incident.

Apache said no sheen was observed on Jan. 18. The platform, which has not been in production for nearly a decade, was used to process natural gas and condensate from other facilities. Before Apache shut in the platform for plugging and abandonment operations, East Cameron Block 278 Platform B processed 20 MMcfd from other facilities, the company said.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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