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Another Gulf Oil Rig Explodes; 13 Workers Rescued

Updated 5:11 p.m. ET | Another offshore oil rig has exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, sending 13 workers into the water.

After initial reports of a 100-foot-wide oil sheen and at least one worker injury, Coast Guard said Thursday afternoon that nobody was seriously injured and there was no sign of an oil leak, but crews continue to monitor for one.

At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said that Mariner Energy told state and federal officials that production had been shut in on the rig’s seven active wells, which were producing about 58,800 gallons of oil each day.

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Coast Guard and the company.
Citing the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in April, Jindal cautioned against believing all early details of the fire, rescue operation and environmental impact since it occurred in such a remote location.

The explosion occurred west of the site of the April blast that caused the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil disaster.

All 13 workers were taken from the burning platform by an oil support vessel and taken to another platform, a Coast Guard spokeswoman told Reuters. The platform continued to burn about two hours after an explosion was reported, said Coast Guard fireman Katherine McNamara. The fire was extinguished hours later.

A commercial helicopter company reported the blast around 9:30 a.m. CDT Thursday, Coast Guard Petty Officer Casey Ranel told news agencies. Seven helicopters, two airplanes and four boats were headed to the site, about 80 miles south of Vermilion Bay along the central Louisiana coast.**

The platform is owned by Mariner Energy. Here is more about the rig from Mariner’s 2009 annual report:

At year-end 2009 estimated proved reserves attributed to our Vermillion 380 field were 33.2 Bcfe [Billions Of Cubic Feet Equivalent], consisting of approximately 47% oil and NGLs [Natural Gas Liquids] and 53% natural gas. During 2008 and 2009, we drilled five wells and added additional production capacity on the “A” platform. Hurricane Ike damaged the structure with the rig on the platform, causing us to suspend drilling while underwater structural repairs were made. We brought the platform back on production at reduced rates until the facilities upgrade were finished. The platform is currently producing approximately 28 MMcfe [Millions of Cubic Feet Equivalent] per day. Our working interest in this block is 100% Production at Vermillion 380 was 1.1 Bcfe in 2009.

Mariner Energy released a statement confirming a fire on Vermilion Block 380, but said that no injuries were reported and no hydrocarbon spill was spotted in an initial flyover.

Mariner has notified and is working with regulatory authorities in response to this incident. The cause is not known, and an investigation will be undertaken. During the last week of August 2010, production from this facility averaged approximately 9.2 million cubic feet of natural gas per day and 1,400 barrels of oil and condensate. Updated information will be provided as available.

Shares of Mariner Energy fell 5 percent to $22.30 after reports of the explosion, according to Reuters. Shares of Apache Corp, which is expected to buy Mariner Energy, also fell 1.8 percent to $90.94.

Dave Gustafson, Vanessa Dennis, Hari Sreenivasan and Maureen Hoch contributed to this report.