‘Out-Of-Control’ Rig In The Gulf Gushing Methane Freely Into The Atmosphere
BY EMILY ATKIN ON JANUARY 31, 2014 AT 9:48 AM
An “out-of-control” well that began blowing gas into the air on Thursday is still not under control as of Friday morning, according to a report from the Associated Press.
42-non essential workers from Rowan Companies PLC’s offshore rig in the Gulf of Mexico, named “Louisiana,” were evacuated, while 37 stayed on the rig to try and stop the flow of gas. Rig operator EnVen Energy Ventures said that while workers attempt to kill the well, gas was being “vented” off of the rig. Although gas, water and sand are still flowing from the well, EnVen said no pollution has occurred in the Gulf.
“All personnel currently aboard the rig are safe and non-essential personnel have been evacuated, all well control equipment is functioning as designed (and) there has been no environmental impact,” Rowan Companies spokesperson Deanna Castillo told the AP.
Unlike a spill, an out-of-control well blowing gas does not pollute in a traditional, visible sense. Instead, it releases methane – the potent, second-most prevalent greenhouse gas – into the air, contributing to climate change. Pure natural gas is mostly methane, a fuel that burns cleaner than coal or oil. However, when methane is released directly into the air, ittraps heat in the atmosphere.
From an air quality perspective, it is better to burn flowing gas through a flare system, rather than venting it directly into the atmosphere, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
It was not clear early Friday whether the companies would attempt to flare off the gas.
Because of a fire risk, the Louisiana platform as well as an adjacent platform that was producing oil and gas was shut down as a precaution, according to the The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. To prevent a fire, all engines on the platform and rig were turned off, and workers are pumping seawater into and over the flow stream.
ABC News: Gas Continues to Escape From Rig off La. Coast
NEW ORLEANS January 31, 2014 (AP)
By BILL FULLER Associated Press
Crews worked Friday to stop natural gas from escaping an underwater well where a rig was drilling off the Louisiana coast. The Coast Guard said workers had cut the flow in half since losing control of the well a day earlier.
No injuries or pollution have been reported. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said most crew members had been evacuated from the rig, which was drilling in 262 feet of water about 108 miles southwest of Lafayette.
The rig operator is EnVen Energy Ventures of Metairie, La. Company spokesman David Blackmon said the flow from the well has “significantly diminished” and consists almost entirely of water and sand, with “just a trace” of natural gas. No sheen has been spotted in the area, Blackmon added.
Work is underway to secure the well, said Deanna Castillo, a spokeswoman for rig owner Rowan Companies.
“All personnel currently aboard the rig are safe and non-essential personnel have been evacuated, all well control equipment is functioning as designed (and) there has been no environmental impact,” she said Thursday.
Blackmon said workers planned to pump mud and water to kill the well.
“They’re just getting everything lined up,” he said. “Sometimes it takes a while to stage these kinds of operations.”
A spokeswoman for the environmental department, Eileen Angelico, said water temperatures in the Gulf were too cold Friday for the agency to send its own officials out to inspect the scene. The agency spokeswoman also said a platform that was producing oil and gas near the EnVen rig was shut down as a precaution.
Wild gas wells tend to be less of an environmental threat than blowouts from oil wells.
A natural gas blowout off Louisiana’s coast in July 2013 ended one day later. Authorities believed the well had been clogged by sand and sediment. The rig, operated by Hercules Offshore Inc., blew out and later caught fire. Part of the rig collapsed before the well apparently plugged itself.
The BP PLC blowout in April 2010 off the southeast Louisiana coast killed 11 workers and spewed a mixture of natural gas and oil from a busted well nearly a mile under the Gulf’s surface. The worst environmental damage appeared to be caused by the hundreds of millions of gallons of crude oil that escaped and fouled marshes and seafood grounds.
The EnVen rig was operating in relatively shallow waters, where measures to control a leak or blowout are easier to manage than in the deep waters of the Gulf.
Special thanks to Richard Charter