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Sonat Pipeline Explosion Offshore LA Injures 5

Sonat Pipeline Explosion Offshore LA Injures 5

Five boat crewman were burned severely last Wednesday night when their two tugboats apparently ran smack into a Sonat feeder line about six miles east of Venice, LA, causing a rupture and a large explosion. The injured crewman had to be airlifted to the University of Alabama's regional burn center. The fire was extinguished by about 11 p.m.

About 50-100 MMcf/d of production was shut in by the rupture of the 14-inch diameter Romere Pass Line, but Sonat said firm transportation would not be affected. The accident apparently was responsible for an early morning spike in natural gas futures, which reversed direction later in the day (see Futures Market Report this issue).

Sonat declared a force majeure and stopped taking nominations Thursday morning at five receipt points: South Pass Block 27, Romere Pass Receiving Station and Mississippi Canyon Blocks 20, 109 and 194. Shippers at the above points were told to take their nominations to zero for today's gas day. There was no estimate on when service would be restored.

According to a report from one of the crewmen aboard the Lady Melinda, the vessel was dragging something when it snagged the pipeline near the main pass into the Mississippi River shortly before 8 p.m. Once the explosion occurred and the Lady Melinda caught fire, another boat came to her aid, the Coast Guard reported. All three crewman of the second boat also were burned and were forced to jump into the water. They were rescued later by a Jayhawk helicopter.

Coincidentally, 51 workers had to be evacuated Wednesday night after a jackup drilling rig, the Ocean Crusader, caught fire in the general vicinity of the Sonat rupture. At 10:45 p.m., while a contractor was driving and welding a caisson over a Basin Exploration well during completion operations on West Delta Block 58 about 22 miles southwest of Venice, LA, an unexpected release of gas occurred from the vicinity of an adjacent well. Heat from the welding apparently ignited the gas and caused a fire. Operations to evacuate the rig and extinguish the fire began immediately. The fire was extinguished by 12:45 a.m. on July 6. All personnel on the rig were accounted for and no injuries were reported. Diamond Offshore owns the rig, which was working for Basin.

Rocco Canonica; Roger Tanner, Houston

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