‘Ocean on fire’: Flames erupt in Gulf of Mexico after gas pipeline ruptures

·2-min read
 (Twitter/Manuel Lopez San Martin)
(Twitter/Manuel Lopez San Martin)

A fire on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico erupted after a gas leak from an underwater pipeline sparked a blaze, according to Mexico’s state-owned Pemex petrol company.

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Footage of the fire – appearing to boil the ocean’s surface with bright orange flames – went viral on 2 July before the fire was extinguished roughly 150 yards from a drilling platform in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, the company reported.

The company said that “no injuries or evacuations are reported.”

Pemex reported a leak at 5:15am on Friday in the submarine pipeline near its Ku-Maloob-Zaap’s Ku-C satellite platform in the Campeche Sound.

The state oil company then began to “close the interconnection valves in the pipeline, extinguishing the fire and the gas emanation” to control the leak by 10.45am, more than five hours later.

In a statement, Greenpeace Mexico’s Gustavo Ampugnani said that “these are the risks we face on a daily basis and which call for a change in the energy model, as we have demanded.”

Ku Maloob Zaap is Pemex’s biggest crude oil producer, accounting for more than 40 per cent of its daily output of nearly 1.7m barrels.

The head of Mexico’s oil safety regulator ASEA, Angel Carrizales, took to Twitter to write that the incident “did not generate any spill” but did not explain what was being burned on the ocean’s surface.

“The turbomachinery of Ku Maloob Zaap’s active production facilities were affected by an electrical storm and heavy rains,” a Pemex incident reports seen by Reuters states.

The report also adds that workers used nitrogen to bring the fire under control.

It is not the first major incident for Pemex in recent years.

In 2015 four workers were killed, 16 injured and more than 300 people had to be evacuated after an explosion on the company’s Abkatun A-Permanente platform in the Gulf of Mexico.

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And in January 2013 an explosion caused by a gas build up at the company’s Mexico City headquarters killed 37 people.

Another 30 people were killed in a September 2012 natural gas plant explosion in the state of Tamaulipas.

Earlier this year Pemex announced that in 2020 it lost around $23bn as demand for oil decreased during the pandemic, although it posed a profit of around $5.9bn in the fourth quarter.

Pemex has the largest debt of any major oil production company at around $114bn, according to Bloomberg.

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