Eric Smith is an Associate Professor for the Tulane Energy Institute. He sat down with WWL TV to talk about the oil and gas production out on Lake Pontchartrain.
"You've got a field and at some point people went out with shallow water drilling rigs and sank three or four wells that tapped into the producing zones," Smith said. "Hook those remote locations up to a central facility, that's what caught fire. But the central facility's job is to separate out the gas and liquids and send them somewhere else."
Sunday night something went wrong. Residents living miles from the platform heard a loud explosion. They looked out to see the platform was on fire. Professor Smith says it's unusual for anyone to be out on the shallow water platforms, let alone eight people.
"You don't see permanent crews unless you're pretty far off shore in deep water," Smith said.
He thinks because a crew was out on the platform they were doing maintenance on the equipment.
"What I suspect happened is you have a contract crew out there doing maintenance and someone cut into the wrong pipe," Smith said.
According to the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, there are 25 oil and gas structures visible on the surface of the lake. Of those only 8 are active wells and 7 of those 8 belong to Clovelly Oil Co. LLC. Smith suspects the company will shut down the damaged platform instead of repairing it.
"At that point they would ask for permission from the Department of Natural Resources to abandon the wells," Smith said.
With less gas being produced in shallow water, Smith says this type of work on Lake Pontchartrain is being phased out.