GOM Update: Hercules rig catches on fire after crew evacuation
BY MELANIE CRUTHIRDS, News Editor
NEW ORLEANS -- The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the U. S. Coast Guard have established a Command Center in their continued response to the loss of well control event 55 mi offshore Louisiana in 154 ft of water.
Walter Oil and Gas experienced a loss of control of Well A-3 at approximately 8:45 a.m. on an unmanned platform at South Timbalier Block 220 while doing completion work on the sidetrack well, to prepare the well for production. The operator reported the safe evacuation of 44 personnel, corrected from earlier reports of 47, from the Hercules 265 jack-up rig.
The well continues to flow natural gas. From a BSEE overflight earlier today, BSEE inspectors reported a cloud of natural gas above the rig, and a light sheen on the water one-half mi by 50 ft in area that is quickly dissipating.
“BSEE’s efforts today are focused on bringing this loss of well control event to a safe resolution,” stated Lars Herbst, BSEE Gulf of Mexico Regional Director. “Offshore oil and gas operators need to re-affirm their aggressive approach to the safety of well operations in light of this event and other recent well control events.”
A firefighting vessel is expected to be on location this evening, with both water and foam fire fighting abilities. The operator, Walter Oil and Gas, will be conducting a site assessment prior to beginning any work on the well. BSEE will be reviewing and approving all plans and procedures to stop the flow of gas and secure the well.
The U.S. Coast Guard is providing safety management oversight, and has deployed the following resources: the 87-ft Coast Guard Cutter and crew Pompano, one MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans and one HC-144 Ocean Sentry from Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile.
BSEE said it will be conducting an investigation into the incident's cause.