Oil in water after Gulf rig explosion

Marketplace Staff Sep 2, 2010


Kai Ryssdal: This morning, a commercial helicopter flying out over the Gulf of Mexico, minding its own business, spotted something I’m sure the crew would rather not have seen. An explosion on an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana.

Marketplace’s Eve Troeh is here with the latest. Hey Eve.

Eve Troeh: Hi.

Ryssdal: So what happened? What do we know?

Troeh: A fire broke out on this shallow-water rig. It’s owned by Mariner Energy, they’re based in Houston. The rig sits about 100 miles off the coast of Vermillion Bay, La., and that’s about 200 miles west of where BP’s rig blew up in April. All the crew members escaped this blast. They jumped in the water; they’ve been rescued. But the rig itself is still on fire. And the company says what’s burning is something stored on the platform. We don’t know yet know what caused the explosion.

Ryssdal: Do we know, though, about oil in the water? I mean, that is in the water, isn’t it?

Troeh: Yes, we do know there’s oil in the water. We don’t know exactly how it got there. The Coast Guard reported a patch of oil on the surface, near the rig. It’s about 100-feet wide and about a nautical mile long. So that’s pretty big. The government agencies and the rig’s owners say this was not an active rig when this all happened. It was down for maintenance. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has been told that whatever their production status was, the wells connected to it has been closed. So wherever the oil came from, there shouldn’t be any more of it getting into the water. Which is good, because that means it’s not like the BP spill where oil was just gushing. Any oil that’s there now should be all that there is to contain.

Ryssdal: Right. Play it out for me, though. I mean, there are wider meanings here.

Troeh: Yes there are. There definitely are. If we’re lucky, this is just a one day thing. Tomorrow, it goes away; it’s an easily cleaned up incident. But you know, parts of the Gulf that were closed for fishing after the BP spill, they re-opened and now they’re closed again. So some shrimp boats and fish boats are turning around and heading back home tonight. And as you know, Louisiana has been pushing the White House to lift this moratorium on deep water drilling. They don’t have such a strong case right now, even though it’s a shallow water rig, it’s still a public relations nightmare for the oil industry, for Gulf seafood and, you know, it’s just a plain old nightmare for all the people who’ve been out of work because of the deep water drilling moratorium. So local leaders are saying that any oil in the Gulf right now, however long it stays there has a huge economic impact.

Ryssdal: Yeah, last thing anybody needs. Alright, Marketplace’s Eve Troeh from the sustainability desk. Thanks Eve.

Troeh: You’re welcome.

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