- (Photo:Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement)
The drilling rig that caught fire after a natural gas well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico is said to be stable. The fire was described as having snuffed itself out.
"The well essentially snuffed itself out," said Jim Noe, a vice president with the rig owner Hercules Offshore Inc., told reporters in a telephone interview.
The well ignited Tuesday night, but the evacuation of 44 workers had already been removed from the rig.
The federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement announced that the well had clogged with sand and sediment, a process called "bridging over" that Noe said can commonly happen with shallow water wells.
Eileen Angelico, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, said no one was on board when the fire started and it is not yet clear what caused the explosion, adding that an investigation is already underway why officials determine how to put out the fire.
On Wednesday federal safety authorities revealed that a large portion of the oilrig had collapsed and crashed into the ocean.
"As the rig fire continues, the beams supporting the derrick and rig floor have folded and have collapsed over the rig structure," read a statement.
The Coast Guard was restricting vessel traffic within 500 meters of the rig, while also recommending that other vessels remain at least five miles away, according to Lt. J.G. Tanner Stiehl. They were also enforcing Federal Aviation Administration temporary restrictions on aircraft up to 2,000 feet above the area, he added.
This is the most severe incident to affect a Gulf of Mexico oilrig since 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill devastated the area, with Louisiana's Lower Parishes bearing the brunt of the oil that was washed ashore. That spill began when the oilrig exploded offshore resulting in the deaths of 11 workers and the spewing tens of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.