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Fire Damages Oil Production Platform in Gulf of Mexico


The US Coast Guard says all 13 crew members from an oil production platform that caught fire Thursday in the Gulf of Mexico are safe on shore and that no oil sheen is visible at the site. The company that owns the platform says damage was limited and no oil leaked from the wells located there.

Speaking to reporters in New Orleans, US Coast Guard Captain Peter Troedsson said there had been sightings of an oil sheen near the accident site, reported by the company that operates the platform, Houston-based Mariner Energy. But, he said, there is no sheen visible now.

"What I can tell you now is that the boats and aircraft on scene cannot see a sheen, so, obviously, we remain ready to respond if a sheen, any sheen becomes visible," said Captain Troedsson.

After reporting the on-board fire, the 13 crew members donned protective suits and jumped into the water, where they were picked up by a supply boat operating in the area. Coast Guard and civilian ambulance helicopters took all 13 to a local on-shore hospital where they were examined, but none had suffered any significant injury.

The platform is located 140 kilometers out from Vermillion Bay, Louisiana in about 100-meter-deep water. The fire stirred apprehension because of the recent oil spill on a deepwater drilling rig operated in another area of the Gulf by BP. The explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon rig in April killed 11 workers and led to the biggest oil spill disaster in world history, dumping 16 thousand cubic meters of crude oil into the Gulf.

But Mariner Energy spokesman Patrick Cassidy says the oil sheen seen earlier in the day by his company's stricken platform was not the result of a spill.

"In the course of spraying off the platform and putting out the fire, there may have been some fluid that spilled out of the platform, but it was not from the wells," said Patrick Cassidy.

Cassidy says the total amount of oil on the water may have been only a few liters, but a small amount of oil can form a sheen over a large area. He says the platform was not used for drilling and was fixed in place, as opposed to the Deepwater Horizon, which was a floating drilling rig. The Mariner platform is also in relatively shallow water, so any leak would be much easier to fix.

But Cassidy stresses that there is no indication that there was any leak from the seven wells connected to the platform for production purposes.

"At the time of the incident, the automatic shut-off equipment was triggered, so the wells were shut in; they were no longer producing," he said. "The crew evacuated the platform and then earlier this afternoon the fire was put out. This was not a blowout, this was not an explosion. Some of the earlier press reports were erroneous. There were no injuries and it does not appear that any hydrocarbons were released from the wells."

Cassidy says company engineers and officials will visit the platform Friday to assess the damage and determine what repairs are needed. He says early indications are that the fire was contained to one area on the upper level where the crew living quarters are located. He said he expects the platform to be operational again once it has been repaired.

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