Natural Gas Catches Fire on Drilling Rig at Gulf of Mexico Well

Natural gas leaking from a Walter Oil & Gas Corp. well in the Gulf of Mexico caught fire on an evacuated rig about 55 miles (88 kilometers) offshore Louisiana.

The fire started about 10:50 p.m. local time yesterday and the cause of the ignition is unknown, Eileen Angelico, a New Orleans-based spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, said in an e-mail. No injuries were reported with nobody on board the Hercules 265 jack-up rig at the time, Angelico said.

Walter Oil & Gas, which operates the A-3 well in the South Timbalier 220 lease block, lost control of drilling operations at about 8:45 a.m. yesterday, according to the BSEE. No oil was spilled, Walter Oil & Gas said in a statement yesterday.

The U.S. suspended drilling in the Gulf of Mexico for five months after the blowout of BP Plc (BP/)’s Macondo well in April 2010, which killed 11 workers and set off an 87-day oil spill that fouled thousands of square miles and shut much of the Gulf to fishing for months.

Wild Well Control Inc. was hired to bring the blown-out well under control, Associated Press reported, citing Angelico. Officials were unable to get close to the well late July 23, before the fire broke out, because it was unsafe, according to the report.

Son Vann, a Houston-based spokesman for Hercules Offshore Inc. (HERO), which owns the drilling rig, couldn’t be reached at his office for comment outside normal working hours. A person who answered the phone at Walter Oil & Gas’s Houston office said nobody was available to comment.

The Gulf accounts for 5.8 percent of U.S. gas production, according to the Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the Energy Department. The incident occurred while Walter Oil & Gas was doing completion work on the sidetrack well in preparation for production, according to an earlier BSEE statement. Before the fire, the bureau reported a natural gas cloud above the rig and a light sheen on the water a half-mile by 50 feet in area.

Natural gas futures in New York fell 0.6 percent to $3.722 per million British thermal units as of 3:53 p.m. Singapore time.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ramsey Al-Rikabi in Singapore at ralrikabi@bloomberg.net; Rakteem Katakey in New Delhi at rkatakey@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alexander Kwiatkowski at akwiatkowsk2@bloomberg.net

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