Burst pipeline causes bubbling, steaming ‘eye of fire’ to emerge in the Gulf of Mexico
A fire on the ocean surface west of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula early on Friday, 2 July 2021, has been extinguished, state oil company Petróleos Mexicanos, otherwise known as Pemex, said, blaming a gas leak from an underwater pipeline for sparking the blaze captured in videos that went viral. Bright orange flames jumping out of water resembling molten lava was dubbed an "eye of fire" on social media due to the blaze's circular shape, as it raged a short distance from a Pemex oil platform. The fire took more than five hours to fully put out, according to Pemex. Fire fighting vessels were deployed to extinguish the fire by closing the pipeline's valve and injecting it with nitrogen.
The fire began in an underwater pipeline that connects to a platform at Pemex's flagship Ku Maloob Zaap oil development, the company's most important, sources told Reuters. Pemex said in a statement that a lightning storm with heavy rain affected some of the pipeline equipment, at the same time that a gas leak had been detected in the pipeline. As the gas rose to the water's surface, it was hit with electrical shocks from the storm, causing the fire to break out, the company said.
Ku Maloob Zaap is located just up from the southern rim of the Gulf of Mexico.
Pemex said no injuries were reported and production from the project was not affected after the gas leak ignited around 5h15am local time. It was completely extinguished by 10h30am.
The company added it would investigate the cause of the fire.
Pemex, which has a long record of major industrial accidents at its facilities, added it also shut the valves of the 12-inch-diameter pipeline.
Angel Carrizales, head of Mexico's oil safety regulator ASEA, wrote on Twitter that the incident "did not generate any spill." He did not explain what was burning on the water's surface.
Ku Maloob Zaap is Pemex's biggest crude oil producer, accounting for more than 40 percent of its nearly 1,7 million barrels of daily output.
"The turbomachinery of Ku Maloob Zaap's active production facilities were affected by an electrical storm and heavy rains," according to a Pemex incident report shared by one of Reuters' sources. Company workers used nitrogen to control the fire, the report added.
Details from the incident report were not mentioned in Pemex's brief press statement and the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sources: Reuters, CBS News