Deadly Oil Rig Explosion Puts Spotlight Back on Embattled Gulf Drillers
By Patrik Jonsson
A day after BP agreed to pay a record $4.5 billion criminal fine for its role in the deadly Deepwater Horizon environmental disaster in 2010, another Gulf of Mexico oil rig exploded, killing at least two workers and injuring as many as 11 on Friday.
While early reports are downplaying the potential for another major environmental disaster, the deadly accident came as the Gulf oil industry tries to shore up a safety record that came under deep scrutiny in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed 11 workers and resulted in some five million barrels of oil escaping into the Gulf from a broken wellhead.
The explosion and ensuing fire on Friday happened on a permanent oil pumping rig owned by independent driller Black Elk Energy around 10 a.m. Eastern time as workers were using cutting torches to split some pipe on the oil rig.
Early indications showed some oil had escaped from the platform, but Coast Guard officials said it was not “a major oil spill response” and that no oil was leaking from the rig. “It’s not going to be an uncontrolled discharge from everything we’re getting right now,” said Coast Guard Capt. Ed Cubanski.
The rig is located about 36 miles south of Port Fourchon, La. By afternoon, the main fire on the rig had been extinguished and the Coast Guard had begun its oil-spill response as reports indicated that a half-mile long, 200-yard wide sheen had developed on the water near the stricken platform.
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