Natural gas rig keeps burning in Gulf of Mexico

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A fire that erupted at a natural gas rig in the Gulf of Mexico was still burning late Wednesday, and workers are preparing to drill a relief well if it’s needed.

Though the derrick and drill rig floor of the Hercules 265 collapsed, the jack up structure and jack up legs remain intact, according to Eileen Angelico, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

“The company has contracted an outside environmental expert to monitor currents, wind direction and wave height for the potential trajectory of any conceivable environmental spill,” said Hercules Offshore, which owns the well, and is leasing it to Houston-based Walter Oil & Gas Corp.

If a relief well is needed, the company said it will dispatch a unit to execute its drilling.

Two firefighting boats were moved to a safe distance Wednesday as they awaited help to fight the blaze.

Forty-four workers were evacuated from the rig Tuesday after a blowout occurred, officials said. Crew members aboard the Hercules 265 were preparing the well for production when they hit an unexpected pocket of gas.

No injuries were reported.

Natural gas was leaking at the site, but no oil was being released, the BSEE said after it and the Coast Guard sent flights over the rig Wednesday morning.

“As the rig fire continues, the beams supporting the derrick and rig floor have folded and have collapsed over the rig structure,” which is in about 150 feet of water, it said. “Under BSEE’s direction, Walter Oil & Gas has begun preparations to move a jack-up rig on location to potentially drill a relief well.”

The platform, about 60 miles southwest of Grand Isle, Louisiana, exploded late Tuesday night, the Coast Guard reported. It said a Coast Guard vessel witnessed the blast.

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