An oil pipeline fire in the Gulf of Mexico was reportedly brought under control and extinguished after a hellish scene of massive flames erupting directly from roiling waters Friday.
The blaze west of the Yucatan Peninsula broke out at an underwater pipeline that connects to a platform operated by Mexican state oil firm Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) at its flagship Ku Maloob Zaap oil development in the southern gulf, Reuters reported.
The national company attributed the blaze, which resembled molten lava on the water, to a gas leak in the 12-inch-diameter pipeline, apparently linked to an electrical storm, according to Reuters.
“The turbomachinery of Ku Maloob Zaap’s active production facilities were affected by an electrical storm and heavy rains,” stated an incident report shared by one of Reuters’ sources.
The operation was reportedly pumping out 726,000 barrels a day of crude at the moment of the incident.
In an eerie scene, ships poured fountains of water onto the flaming gulf. Reuters reported that Pemex’s crew used nitrogen to finally control the fire from the pipeline.
The blaze erupted at 5:15 a.m. local time about 150 yards from an oil platform and operations returned to “normal” at 10:45 after the fire was extinguished, Bloomberg reported, citing a company statement.
No injuries or major impact on production were reported after the early-morning fire.
The full extent of any environmental damage was not yet known. Angel Carrizales, head of Mexico’s oil safety regulator ASEA, insisted on Twitter that the incident “did not generate any spill” — but failed to explain what was burning on the water, Reuters noted.
Pemex has had a history of accidents.
Ku Maloob Zaap is Pemex’s largest crude oil producers, and accounts for more than 40% of its total 1.7 million barrels of daily crude production.
Production has been declining at Ku Maloob Zaap as fields mature and Pemex doesn’t have enough resources to invest in new extraction technologies, Bloomberg reported.
Pemex output has dropped each year for more than a decade, has the largest debt of any major oil operation — almost $114 billion, according to Bloomberg.
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