42-non essential workers from Rowan Companies PLC’s offshore rig in the Gulf of Mexico, named “Louisiana,” were evacuated, while 37 stayed on the rig to try and stop the flow of gas. Rig operator EnVen Energy Ventures said that while workers attempt to kill the well, gas was being “vented” off of the rig. Although gas, water and sand are still flowing from the well, EnVen said no pollution has occurred in the Gulf.
“All personnel currently aboard the rig are safe and non-essential personnel have been evacuated, all well control equipment is functioning as designed (and) there has been no environmental impact,” Rowan Companies spokesperson Deanna Castillo told the AP.
Unlike a spill, an out-of-control well blowing gas does not pollute in a traditional, visible sense. Instead, it releases methane — the potent, second-most prevalent greenhouse gas — into the air, contributing to climate change. Pure natural gas is mostly methane, a fuel that burns cleaner than coal or oil. However, when methane is released directly into the air, it traps heat in the atmosphere.
From an air quality perspective, it is better to burn flowing gas through a flare system, rather than venting it directly into the atmosphere, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
It was not clear early Friday whether the companies would attempt to flare off the gas.
Because of a fire risk, the Louisiana platform as well as an adjacent platform that was producing oil and gas was shut down as a precaution, according to the The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. To prevent a fire, all engines on the platform and rig were turned off, and workers are pumping seawater into and over the flow stream.