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Gulf rig fire: How safe is offshore natural gas drilling?

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Gerald Herbert/AP

(Read caption) The Gulf rig fire is seen on the Hercules 265 drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, Wednesday. Natural gas spewed uncontrolled from the well on Tuesday after a blowout that forced the evacuation of 44 workers aboard the drilling rig, authorities said. No injuries were reported in the blowout.

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A U.S. energy safety bureau said part of a drilling platform off the coast of Louisiana has partially collapsed after catching fire late Tuesday.  No injuries were reported when a natural gas cloud ignited at the Hercules Offshore drilling rig. At least three firefighting vessels were on scene responding to the incident in a scene reminiscent of the 2010 oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Though no sheen was reported during initial surveys, federal officials said it was time the industry takes offshore safety seriously.
  
The Interior Department's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement was able to confirm an explosion occurred on board the rig located about 55 miles off the coast of Louisiana. Operator Walter Oil and Gas Corp. said it lost control of the well Tuesdaymorning while it was making preparations for production. Hercules owns the rig and both companies said they were in close contact with the Coast Guard and the BSEE as they worked on a response.

The well is in shallow waters. By Wednesday afternoon, the BSEE said part of the rig had collapsed and the fire was still burning.

 
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