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Another Oil Rig in Gulf of Mexico Explodes

by Bob Warren

UPDATED...

NEW ORLEANS -- A shallow-water production rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded this morning, causing the thirteen crew members aboard to abandon the structure.

Coast Guard rescuers are en route to the scene of the fire, 90 miles south of Vermilion Bay, Coast Guard Petty Officer Bill Colclough said. Twelve of the workers are in immersion suits, designed to protect them from hypothermia. One is reported injured.

Once plucked from the Gulf, the injured will be taken Terrebone General Medical Center in Houma, Colclough said.

A helicopter pilot for a private company named Bristow reported the rig on fire around 9:30 a.m. It remained on fire as of 10:55 a.m., Colclough said. The cause is under investigation. As of 10:30 a.m., eight helicopters, two airplanes and four boats were en route from Coast Guard stations in New Orleans and Houston.

The rig is an oil and gas production platform located in 340 feet of water in Vermillion Block 380, according to federal government records. The well was not producing any "product" at the time of the accident, Colclough said.

It is owned by Mariner Energy, headquartered in Houston. Mariner and Apache Corp. entered into a merger agreement in April.

According to its website, Mariner is among the largest lease holders on the continental shelf with interests in approximately 240 federal leases and more than 30 state blocks, at year-end 2009.

In deepwater, Mariner holds a working interest in more than 90 blocks. The company has participated in more than 35 deepwater projects, operating more than half of them.

The offshore oil and gas industry is still in flux following the April 20 blowout of BP's deepwater exploration well Macondo, also just off the Louisiana coast. In that accident, 11 rig workers were killed when they lost control of the well, 115 others escaped from raging fireballs and the Transocean Deepwater Horizon rig sank two days later, setting off the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

With all the unwanted attention just starting to wane, members of industry groups were staggered by the latest accident today, even though it was on a much smaller scale and appears to have nothing to do with the deepwater drilling dangers that surrounded the BP incident.

The production work at Vermillion 380 had nothing to do with the drilling operations that fell under the government's controversial moratorium after the BP spill.

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