Natural Gas Spews 'Uncontrolled' Into Gulf Following Blowout

A natural gas drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. (Photo: Plan for Opportunity/ cc/ Flickr)

Natural Gas Spews 'Uncontrolled' Into Gulf Following Blowout

Rupture caused by failed attempt to expand well

Natural gas spewed "uncontrolled" from a well off the Louisiana coast Tuesday after a blowout followed a failed attempt by a drilling rig to expand natural gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Though no injuries or fires have yet been reported, the rupture forced the evacuation of 47 rig workers.

Inspectors flying over the site "saw a light sheen covering an area about a half-mile by 50ft," the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) reports.

According to Jefferson Parish Council Chairman Chris Roberts, the exploded well is estimated to be about 10 miles southwest of Grand Isle, Louisiana, and there are reports of "a gas cloud in the vicinity," reports the Times-Picayune.

"We are monitoring it because of its proximity to Grand Isle and because if there is a natural gas cloud that continues to flow then you run the risk of an explosion if there is ignition," Roberts said.

Tuesday's blowout occurred near an unmanned offshore gas platform that was not producing natural gas. However, the workers were reportedly aboard a portable drilling rig, known as a jackup rig, attempting to complete a "sidetrack well" to prepare that well for new production, according to the BSEE. A sidetrack well uses the same hole as the original well but then spreads to a new location at the same depth.

The jackup rig was being operated by Hercules Offshore on behalf of Houston-based Walter Oil & Gas Corp, which told Jefferson Parish Emergency Management that the well could produce a maximum of 120 barrels of natural gas a day.

This has been the second incident this month regarding an off-shore natural gas well leaking into the Gulf of Mexico. During the previous incident, a well in the process of being abandoned poured natural gas into Gulf waters for several days before being sealed off.

These spills are a "reminder that deep water drilling for fossil fuels is volatile and dangerous, and that we need to transition as soon as possible to safer, cleaner forms of energy like wind and solar," said Deb Nardone, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Natural Gas campaign, following the earlier spill.


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