NEW ORLEANS – An out-of-control natural gas well off the Louisiana coast caught fire late Tuesday, hours after 44 workers were safely evacuated from the drilling rig following a mid-morning blowout, a federal agency confirmed.
No injuries were reported, Eileen Angelico, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, told the Associated Press.
She said it wasn’t known what caused the gas to ignite. It also wasn’t clear early Wednesday how and when crews would attempt to extinguish the blaze. BSEE said earlier Tuesday that a firefighting vessel had been dispatched to the scene.
Wild Well Control Inc. was hired to try to bring the well under control. Angelico said Wild Well personnel approached the well before the fire but determined it was unsafe to get closer when they were about 200 feet away from it.
The Coast Guard kept nautical traffic out of an area and the Federal Aviation Administration restricted aircraft up to 2,000 feet above the site.
BSEE said inspectors flying over the site soon after the blowout saw a light sheen covering an area about a half-mile by 50 feet. However, it was dissipating quickly.
Earlier this month, a gas well off the Louisiana coast flowed for several days before being sealed.
Officials stressed that Tuesday’s blowout wouldn’t be close to as damaging as the BP oil spill of 2010, in which an oil rig, the Deepwater Horizon, exploded off the Louisiana coast, killing 11 workers and eventually spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf. It was the worst offshore environmental disaster in U.S. history.
Chris Roberts, a member of the Jefferson Parish Council in south Louisiana, said the travel restrictions might pose an inconvenience for participants in an upcoming deep sea fishing tournament.
“It could change some plans as to where some people plan to fish,” he said.