Nat Gas Believed Leaking from Apache Platform in GOM -Regulators

HOUSTON (Dow Jones Newswires), Jan. 18, 2011

Federal regulators said Monday that Apache has reported a suspected natural gas leak at one of its Gulf of Mexico platforms and, as a result, has shut-in some of its nearby pipelines.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement said in a news release that the platform, which has not produced natural gas in more than a decade, is currently used to process gas and condensate from other offshore facilities. It sits about 90 miles south of Lake Charles, La. in 173 feet of water, regulators said.

Apache's workers, who were evacuated from the platform, were there to permanently seal non-producing wells in the area, the agency said.

An Apache spokesman confirmed the government's report on Monday and said that the Houston company is bringing a remote-operated vehicle to the site to provide a visual assessment of the leak.

Other than small amounts of condensate, which is similar to gasoline and "quickly evaporates," oil is not believed to be leaking, U.S. regulators said.

The matter was first reported to the BOEMRE on Sunday after Apache employees spotted "what appeared to be natural gas bubbling to the surface near the platform," the agency said. Federal inspectors said that water near the platform continued to bubble and was discolored--possibly from sediment from the ocean floor--early Monday.

The U.S. government's offshore energy regulators will oversee Apache's efforts to seal the leak and investigate the incident.

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