GULF OF MEXICO -- Forty-seven workers were evacuated from a rig in the Gulf of Mexico after a natural gas blowout.
According to the Coast Guard, all of the workers were accounted for and there are no reports of injuries. They were rescued from the rig by two offshore supply vessels.
Federal authorities said this blowout didn't result in a fire. It's still called a "blowout" because natural gas flowed up from the well and couldn't be shut in by the rig's blowout preventer, even though it didn't ignite above the water.
Jefferson Parish Emergency Management officials said the incident occurred about 40 miles south and 10 to 15 miles west of Grand Isle, La. It was a shallow-water well in 154 feet of water, owned by Walter Oil & Gas, according to the federal offshore safety agency.
The incident happened on Hercules 265, a jack-up rig that moves around the Gulf of Mexico and contracts with oil and gas operators to drill wells. In this case, the jack-up rig had contracted with Walter Oil & Gas and was set up over Walter's fixed platform.
"Our first and foremost concern is for the safety of all personnel aboard our drilling rig and we have taken every necessary precaution to safely evacuate the rig. Furthermore, efforts are ongoing with our client, Walter Oil & Gas, to mobilize the necessary resources to regain control of the well and minimize any potential impact on the environment," said John T. Rynd, CEO and President of Hercules Offshore.
Hercules' vice president Jim Noe is the head of the Shallow Water Energy Security Coalition and has been critical of new safety measures and permitting requirements imposed by President Obama's administration after the 2010 BP oil spill. Noe has argued that the shallow water operations are not as dangerous as those in deepwater and shouldn't have been affected so much in response to BP's deepwater incident.
The crew was on the jack-up rig completing what's called a sidetrack well, which is drilled when an initial well runs dry. In other words, they went into an existing well under the fixed platform and from down in the hole, they had drilled a new well in a different direction to try to collect gas from other deposits in the area.
They had hit a producing zone of natural gas and were perforating the casing that lines the sides of the well to tap into the reservoir when they lost control of the flow.
"Walter Oil & Gas this morning reported the loss of control of Well A-3 on an unmanned platform at South Timbalier Block 220 while doing completion work on the sidetrack well to prepare the well for production. The well is flowing gas and no oil is being released," said a statement from the federal offshore safety agency, known as the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
The Coast Guard is sending a helicopter and a vessel to assist.
"BSEE inspectors conducting an overflight reported a light sheen one-half mile by 50 feet in area which is dissipating almost immediately," BSEE said in a statement.