An explosion and fire ripped through a Gulf of Mexico oil platform in the US yesterday as workers used a cutting torch, sending four people to a hospital with burns and leaving two missing in the sea.
It is thought both missing men were employees of oilfield contractor Grand Isle Shipyard and from the Philippines. The body of one has since been recovered.
Coastguard captain Ed Cubanski said the well was not producing at the time and no oil was leaking.
A small amount of oil spilled from the platform when the workers using a torch cut into a 75ft-long, 3in-wide line on the platform. Mr Cubanski said a sheen half a mile long and 200 yards wide was reported. “It’s not going to be an uncontrolled discharge,” he added.
The fire had since been extinguished, said coastguard spokesman Drake Fore. He said aircraft and boats were searching for two missing people but nobody was believed killed in the fire.
The platform produces oil from an established well, unlike the Deepwater Horizon rig, which was drilling an exploratory well for oil giant BP in mile-deep water when it blew up and triggered a massive oil spill in the Gulf in 2010. That site is well to the east of yesterday’s explosion.
Four injured workers were brought to a New Orleans hospital in critical condition with second and third-degree burns over much of their bodies.
The production platform owned by Black Elk Energy is 25 miles from Grand Isle, Louisiana. The Coastguard said 26 people were aboard at the time of the blast.
Last night the platform appeared to be structurally sound. After the 2010 explosion, the Deepwater Horizon rig burned for 36 hours before suffering structural collapse and sinking to the sea floor.
Black Elk is an independent Houston-based oil company. Its website says it holds interests in properties in Texas and Louisiana waters, including 854 wells on 155 platforms.