April 21, 2010
Fire still raging on Deepwater Horizon
The Coast Guard today issued video of the efforts to fight the fire raging aboard the Transocean semisubmersible drilling rig Deepwater Horizon. It said efforts to find 11 missing crew members would continue through the night.
In an update on an earlier statement, Transocean said:
The rig was staffed with a 126 member crew, 11 remain missing and 115 have been safely evacuated. The ongoing search and rescue effort is being coordinated among Transocean's Emergency and Family Response Team, the lease operator, BP Exploration & Production, Inc., and the U.S. Coast Guard.
The rig continues to burn and Transocean, BP and the U.S. Coast Guard are actively pursuing various methods to stem the flow of hydrocarbons that appear to be fueling the fire. The rig is being monitored continually for stability. The U.S. Coast Guard has contingency plans in the event environmental risk escalates.
The cause of the fire and explosion is unknown at this time. An investigation into the cause of the incident and assessment of the damage will be ongoing in the days or weeks to come.
At a press conference in New Orleans this afternoon, Adrian Rose, vice president of quality, health safety and environment for Transocean, said that the rig, which was operating in 5,000 ft of water, had completed cementing and casing of an 18,000-foot exploratory well, when a sudden and abnormal pressure build up occurred in piping connecting the well to the rig.
"Gas or oil got into the pipe and as it came up through the riser it expanded rapidly and ignited," Mr. Rose said, though hecautioned it was far too early to determine the exact cause.
A formal investigation will be made by the Coast Guard and the Minerals Management Service.
It is too soon to know if the rig is salvageable, Mr. Rose said. The rig has been reported as listing by as much 10 degrees, but is said to be in no danger of capsizing.
Plans are to stem the flow of combustible oil and gas that is fueling the fire by using an ROV to reposition the rig's blowout preventer on the ocean floor. Thus far these efforts have been thwarted by the raging fire.
The Deepwater Horizon, placed into service in 2001, is a dynamically positioned ultra-deepwater semisubmersible rig capable of working in water depths of up to 10,000 feet. Last year drilled the deepest oil and gas well ever while working for BP and its co-owners on the Tiber well in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. Working with BP, the Transocean crews on the Deepwater Horizon drilled the well to 35,050 vertical depth and 35,055 feet measured depth (MD), or more than six miles, while operating in 4,130 feet of water.