Max Fisher at The Atlantic:
An oil rig off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico has exploded, sending all 13 oil workers into the Gulf, one of whom remains missing. A search and rescue effort by the U.S. Coast Guard is already underway. The explosion comes shortly after oil finally stopped flowing into the Gulf (for the moment) from another rig that had been severely damaged by a large explosion. Fortunately, early reports say this explosion occurred at an oil rig that is not currently producing, drastically reducing the potential for further environmental damage.
Despite strong encouragement from many liberals and environmental activists, that crisis did not secure sweeping energy reform legislation or the full Democratic backing of long-sought cap and trade proposals. Even President Obama’s offshore drilling moratorium was initially knocked down by a state court. In the wake of that long and difficult episode, many are greeting this most recent event with deep, almost macabre cynicism about our ability to learn from disaster.
Pray for the workers. Brace for the political aftermath.
DHS claims that the rig wasn’t producing oil and gas when the explosion hit. Time to breathe easy? Maybe not: CNN’s Ed Henry is hearing from the Coast Guard that the platform was in production and that it … wasn’t equipped with a standard blowout preventer. (The crew did, however, allegedly start emergency shutdown before bailing out.) As of an hour ago, the rig was still on fire but I’m not sure what the status is now. Jindal is set to speak within an hour or so. Stand by for updates galore.
Update: WDSU says that because it’s a platform, not a rig, it’s not actively engaged in drilling.
Update: A tip from a reader who, unlike me, knows what he’s talking about:
If the platform is not a drilling platform then it doesn’t need a traditional blowout preventer. The difference being is that with drilling the oil is being forced out at a high rate, therefor need a blowout preventer that can hold back all that pressure. If this platform is a production platform, all it needs is something to stop the flow in the pipes which is flowing with much lower pressure.
Update: How much oil and gas was the platform churning out? CNN:
“Mariner has notified and is working with regulatory authorities in response to this incident,” the statement said. “The cause is not known, and an investigation will be undertaken. During the last week of August 2010, production from this facility averaged approximately 9.2 million cubic feet of natural gas per day and 1,400 barrels of oil and condensate.”
Update: Oh boy. Here we go:
The Coast Guard is saying that a mile-long oil sheen is spreading from the site off an offshore petroleum platform that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana.
The site of the explosion is west of where BP’s massive spill occurred.
Update: Ah, a comforting explanation for the sheen. It’s not oil bubbling up from the seabed; it’s oil that had already been captured and stored on the rig.
Also, Mariner indicated that the fire — which was first reported to the Coast Guard by workers on a nearby rig around 9:20 a.m. (10:20 a.m. ET) — was not sparked by an explosion. It started at one of the platform’s seven active wells, the company said, though its cause is under investigation…
Jindal said that Mariner has told him that all seven wells have been closed off and that what is burning now is from fuel in storage, and not from an active leak.
Jonathan Cohn at TNR:
The Coast Guard says it has rescued all 13 workers and, so far, it looks like we’re not in for a repeat of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, according to New Orleans Times-Picayune. This rig, which is owned by Mariner Energy, was in much shallower waters–340 feet deep rather than a mile.
And while the well was producing oil, Mariner officials say that workers shut down the operation before evacuating. The officials also said they observed no leaking oil during a flyover, conducted while the rig was still burning.
The Times-Picayune reports that the drilling “had nothing to do with the drilling operations that fell under the government’s controversial moratorium after the BP spill.” But oil and gas industry officials remain worried this incident will set back efforts to end the moratorium:
…oil and gas industry insiders, who have fought for months to get the moratorium lifted, are concerned that the accident will be perceived as something that a moratorium would prevent.
“It’s certainly disheartening, and it is going to be yet another challenge for the industry,” said Chris John, president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association.”We were making some progress on the moratorium. This certainly will complicate matters.”
Yes it will. And I can’t say it upsets me. While this incident may not strengthen the case for the existing moratorium, it should certainly remind people that there are hazards inherent in offshore oil operations–and that we should be working harder to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
Update: Coast Guard officials are now saying they did not see an oil slick on the water, following reports suggesting they had.
Mary Katherine Ham at The Weekly Standard
Aside from snark about the irony that this didn’t happen when oil men Bush and Cheney were at the helm, I’m not sure what to make of this. Clearly, federal regulation of Gulf oil drilling has been spotty — and that certainly extends to the Bush-Cheney tenure, when this well was drilled. And some companies seem to have markedly more violations than others, with no meaningful penalty.
Choire Sicha at The Awl:
Why should we care? We all know that oil apparently just goes away. Just like Gulf War I prepared us for Gulf War II, so has Gulf Spill I inured me to this latest.
Also I don’t really need to think about the fact that Mariner Energy, which owns the blown-up oil rig, has at least two top executives who worked at Enron, right?
Richard Lawson at Gawker:
Luckily, it was non-producing and there are no reported deaths. But man, oil companies really shouldn’t have listened to that sinister Explode-O-Rig 5000™ salesman.