Fire ignites on evacuated jack up rig in Gulf of Mexico

This story was updated July 24.

A natural gas leak from an offshore well ignited a fire late on July 23 that spread to the Hercules 265 jack up rig while the rig was working for Walter Oil & Gas Corp. about 55 miles off Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement reported.

The fire followed a well-control incident hours earlier. No one was on board the jack up when the fire ignited. The source of the ignition was not immediately known. The rig is in 154 ft of water.

Drilling contractor Hercules Offshore said the extent of damage is currently unknown.

BSEE said a firefighting vessel with both water and foam firefighting abilities was deployed. The US Coast Guard is providing safety management oversight and has deployed a cutter and helicopter.

Walter Oil & Gas reported a loss of control of Well A-3 on a platform at South Timbalier Block 220 at 8:45 a.m. on July 23. The well-control incident happened during completion work on a sidetrack well to prepare the Well A-3 for production. BSEE said 44 people were evacuated from the Hercules 265.

From an overflight on July 23, BSEE inspectors reported a cloud of gas above the rig and a light sheen on the water ½ mile by 50 ft in area that was quickly dissipating.

On July 24, BSEE and USCG conducted additional overflights and reported no observed sheen on the water surface. As the rig fire continues, the beams supporting the derrick and rig floor have folded and have collapsed over the rig structure.

Two firefighting vessels were in the area and moved to a safe distance from the fire. A third vessel equipped with fire-fighting capability and improved monitoring system is en route, BSEE said.

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