Sep 2, 2010 5:17 PM by Melissa Canone

Coast Guard Backing Off Its Earlier Report of Oil Sheen Spreading

NEW ORLEANS, La. (AP) - The Coast Guard is backing off its
earlier report that an oil sheen about a mile long was spreading
following a platform explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.
Coast Guard Cmdr. Cheri Ben-Iesau said Thursday afternoon that
crews was unable to confirm the oil sheen. The Coast Guard says
platform owner Mariner Energy reported a sheen about a mile long
and 100 feet wide. But the company has said in a statement that an
initial flyover didn't find an oil spill.
Ben-lesau says the fire on the platform has been put out. All 13
crew members were rescued from the water.


NEW ORLEANS, La. (AP) - An oil platform exploded and caught fire
Thursday off the Louisiana coast, spreading a mile-long oil sheen
into the Gulf of Mexico. All 13 crew members were rescued.
      Coast Guard Petty Officer Bill Coklough said the sheen, about
100 feet wide, was spotted near the platform, 200 miles west of the
site of BP's massive spill. Firefighting vessels were battling the
      The company that owns the platform, Houston-based Mariner
Energy, did not know what caused the blast, which was reported by a
helicopter flying over the area. Seven Coast Guard helicopters, two
airplanes and three cutters were dispatched to the scene.
      Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Mariner officials told him
there were seven active production wells on the platform, and they
were shut down shortly after the fire broke out.
      The platform is in about 340 feet of water and about 100 miles
south of Louisiana's Vermilion Bay. Its location is considered
shallow water, much less than the approximately 5,000 feet where
BP's well spewed oil and gas for three months after the April rig
      Responding to any oil spill in shallow water would be much
easier than in deep water, where crews depend on remote-operated
vehicles access equipment on the sea floor.
      A homeland security update obtained by The Associated Press said
the platform was producing 58,800 gallons of oil and 900,000 cubic
feet of gas per day. The platform can store 4,200 gallons of oil.
      White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the administration
has "response assets ready for deployment should we receive
reports of pollution in the water," Gibbs said.
      Crew members were found floating in the water, huddled together
in survival outfits called "gumby suits."
      "These guys had the presence of mind, used their training to
get into those gumby suits before they entered the water," Coast
Guard spokesman Chief Petty Officer John Edwards said.
      The crew was being flown to a hospital in Houma. Coast Guard
Cmdr. Cheri Ben-Iesau said one person was injured, but the company
said there were no injuries.
      A company report said the well was drilled in the third quarter
of 2008.
      There are about 3,400 platforms operating in the Gulf, according
to the American Petroleum Institute. Together they pump about a
third of the America's domestic oil, forming the backbone of the
country's petroleum industry.
      Platforms are vastly different from oil rigs like the Deepwater
Horizon. They are usually brought in after wells are already
drilled and sealed.
      "A production platform is much more stable," said Andy
Radford, an API expert on offshore oil drilling. "On a drilling
rig, you're actually drilling the well. You're cutting. You're
pumping mud down the hole. You have a lot more activity on a
drilling rig."
      In contrast, platforms are usually placed atop stable wells
where the oil is flowing at a predictable pressure, he said. A
majority of platforms in the Gulf do not require crews on board.
      Many platforms, especially those in shallower water, stand on
legs that are drilled into the sea floor. Like a giant octopus,
they spread numerous pipelines across the sea floor and can tap
into many wells at once.
      Platforms do not have blowout preventers, but they are usually
equipped with a series of redundant valves that can shut off oil
and gas at different points along the pipeline.
      Numerous platforms were damaged during hurricanes Katrina and
Rita. The storms broke pipelines and oil spilled into the Gulf. But
the platforms successfully kept major spills from happening,
Radford said.
      "Those safety valves did their job," he said.
      Federal authorities have cited Mariner Energy and related
entities for 10 accidents in the Gulf of Mexico over the last four
years, according to safety records from the Bureau of Ocean Energy
Management, Regulation and Enforcement.
      The accidents range from platform fires to pollution spills and
a blowout, according to accident-investigation reports from the
agency formerly known as the Minerals Management Service.
      In 2007, welding sparks falling onto an oil storage tank caused
a flash fire that slightly burned a contract worker. The Minerals
Management Service issued a $35,000 fine.
      Mariner Energy Inc. focuses on oil and gas exploration and
production in the Gulf. In April, Apache Corp., another independent
oil company, announced plans to buy Mariner in a cash-and-stockIX,eal valued at $3.9 billion, including the assumption of about $1.2
billion of Mariner's debt. That deal is pending.
      On Friday, BP was expected to begin the process of removing the
cap and failed blowout preventer, another step toward completion of
a relief well that would put a final seal on the well. The
Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20, killing 11 people and setting
off a three-month leak that totaled 206 million gallons of oil.


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