Venezuelan gas rig sinks, workers evacuated

Venezuelan gas rig sinks, workers evacuated
# 13 May 2010 21:47 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. A natural gas platform sank off the coast of Venezuela on Thursday, after all 95 workers were safely evacuated, in the second drilling platform accident in the Americas in three weeks, APA reports quoting web-page.

Venezuelan Energy and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez told state television VTV that the Aban Pearl platform collapse in the Caribbean did not pose an environmental threat.

The incident comes just three weeks after the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank into the Gulf of Mexico, unleashing thousands of barrels of crude in what could become the worst oil spill in US history.
But Ramirez said that there was no risk of a gas leak off Venezuela.
"There’s no possibility of a hydrocarbon leak," Ramirez told VTV state television from the region where the accident happened.

"We’re talking about dry gas and not oil, which has different characteristics to those of a liquid hydrocarbon."

Ramirez announced an investigation into the origin of the collapse, which he said had happened "too fast" given that only three hours passed between the detection of the first technical failure and the sinking.

A system failure had occurred aboard the rig shortly before midnight and the platform began to tilt due to an apparent fault with the flotation system, Ramirez said earlier.

All workers onboard had been evacuated unhurt to a nearby boat.
President Hugo Chavez first announced the platform collapse in a message on the social networking site Twitter.

"Two of our Navy patrol ships are moving to the area," Chavez wrote. "We will continue to move forward and succeed. Viva Venezuela!"

The gas well was immediately sealed and all safety valves were activated, said Venezuela’s national oil company PDVSA.

The company began using the gas platform in 2009 as part of high-profile exploration and oil and gas production projects.

Ramirez said the platform belonged to Petromarine, which meant that there was shared responsibility.

Petromarine Energy Services, which is headquartered in Singapore and a subsidiary of the Indian company Aban OffShore, had signed a contract with PDVSA to supply the semi-submersible platform.

"It had been certified before it started operations," the Venezuelan minister said.

The platform measured 72 by 72 meters (79 by 79 yards) and could operate to a depth of more than 160 meters, according to PDVSA.

The government last week celebrated the launch of a new offshore well as part of the same ambitious Mariscal Sucre project that was using the Aban Pearl platform.

Ramirez said on Thursday that the government would find a substitute platform within two months so that the growth of the gas sector would not be affected.
Venezuela has some 200 billion cubic feet (5.66 billion cubic meters) of proven gas reserves.

According to Ramirez, the government is working to incorporate probable and possible reserves of up to 400 billion cubic feet.

Chavez recently said that Venezuela would, in the medium term, become a gas power with proven reserves that would make the South American nation the fourth biggest supplier worldwide.