2 missing after GOM platform fire

Smoke plume rising from Black Elk Energy production platform

Two contractors are missing and 11 were injured when an oil production platform offshore Louisiana caught on fire, the U.S. Coast Guard announced on 16 November 2012.

At the time of the fire, 22 workers were onboard. Helicopters medevaced 11 injured to local area hospitals and nine workers were evacuated. Two workers remain missing.

Houston-based Black Elk Energy operates the platform in the shallow water West Delta Block 32, approximately 25 miles southeast of Grand Isle, Louisiana. The platform was not producing at the time of the fire, having been shut-in due to maintenance.

John Hoffman, CEO of Black Elk Energy, told Houston TV station KTRK that workers had used a cutting torch to cut a line that required cold-cutting. The line had been connected to tanks, which still contained oil and vapor. The torch ignited the vapors causing the tanks to explode, Hoffman said.

The missing workers for are contractors from Grand Isle Shipyard, Hoffman told KTRK.

After the fire was extinguished, a sheen measuring three miles by 250 ft was viewed by helicopter. Hoffman said the sheen contained approximately 3.5 gallons of fuel.

Coast Guard Incident Commander Captain Ed Cubanski said in an afternoon press conference that the rig is structurally sound, although some charring is evident where the fire occurred.

In addition to having an on-site commander working with the U.S. Coast Guard, Black Elk Energy has set up command centers in Houston and in Houma, Louisiana, to coordinate response efforts.

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