Processing Magazine

Transocean Says Oil Rig Fire May Have Been Caused by ‘Blowout’

April 22, 2010
According to Bloomberg, Transocean Ltd. said a pressure surge violent enough to rupture pipes, known in the oil and natural-gas industry as a blowout, may have triggered the explosion and fire yesterday on a deepwater rig that injured 17 people and left 11 missing. The assumption is based on the nature of the fire, which is burning from the top of the well, fed by escaping oil or gas, Adrian Rose, Transocean’s vice president for quality, health, safety and the environment, said at a New Orleans press conference today. The company has yet to board the rig or interview survivors. The fire engulfed the Deepwater Horizon, a floating rig leased to BP Plc, as it was completing the concrete casing of a well drilled to a depth of 18,000 feet (5,486 meters), apparently with little or no warning, Rose said. The rig was 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana. “There was undoubtedly some abnormal pressure buildup,” Rose said. “As oil or gas came up, it expanded rapidly and ignited. This is an assumption. We still don’t know exactly the cause.” The U.S. Minerals Management Service, the U.S. agency that oversees offshore drilling and its parent, the Department of the Interior, and the Coast Guard will investigate the cause of the explosion, Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes said at the press conference. Transocean, based in Geneva, and BP, based in London, also will investigate, Rose said. The fate of the 11 missing crew members is unknown after a search of the area that began shortly after the explosion and lasted all day, involving as many as four helicopters, a search plane and four ships, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary E. Landry said at the press conference. Crews will attempt to staunch the fuel to the fire using a remote-operated vehicle, Rainey said. Ships are pouring water on the blaze, hoping to cool the rig sufficiently for the robot to move in, he said.