Fire on Apache Platform Off Louisiana Is Fatal to Worker

A fire aboard an Apache Corp. oil and natural gas platform in the Gulf of Mexico left one contract worker dead and halted production at the facility.

The fire occurred about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday at Apache's East Cameron 2 processing platform, two miles off Cameron Parish in south Louisiana, Houston-based Apache said.

All three workers on the platform were rescued by a commercial vessel working in the area. But Frank Richard, 34, of Mowata, La., died later at an area hospital. The other two workers were discharged from the hospital.

The personnel on the platform were employees of Lafayette, La.-based Island Operating Co., which runs facilities for Apache and other energy companies in the Gulf. Officials at Island Operating did not return a call.

As of Wednesday afternoon, wells that flow into the processing facilities on the platform remained shut down.

The platform processes about 7.7 million cubic feet of gas and 850 barrels of oil per day.

The cause of the fire had not been determined.

Apache surveyed the platform by helicopter and found only a "minor sheen" of petroleum on the water, company spokesman Bill Mintz said.

"Our priority is dealing with the environmental impacts and making sure it's safe to be aboard the platform," he said. "Then we'll conduct an investigation."

The U.S. Minerals Management Service, which regulates the offshore oil and gas industry in federal waters, declined comment because the accident took place in Louisiana waters.

Officials with the U.S. Coast Guard and Louisiana State Police said they were working with Apache to assess damage.

There are more than 4,000 oil and natural gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

In 2008, the last full year for which data is available, 11 workers were fatally injured on offshore platforms. Five were killed the year before, and 10 died in 2006, according to Minerals Management Service data.

But the industry's safety record has improved dramatically over a decades-long period when offshore drilling and production has greatly increased, said Bill Erny, a policy adviser at the American Petroleum Institute. He noted that 30 workers died in 1968.

"No incident is acceptable," he said. "Continued vigilance is essential in helping to prevent future incidents."

Copyright (c) 2010, Houston Chronicle. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.




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