Oil Rig Explosion in Louisiana: Update on Oil Spill Risk, Rescue Efforts

October 16, 2017 Updated: October 5, 2018    

Three people were still in critical condition and one missing on Monday morning after a gas pipe exploded on an oil rig in Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana, on the night of Sunday, Oct. 15.

The explosion injured seven workers, three of them critically. The other four have been released from hospital.

Authorities were still looking for the missing eighth worker as of Monday morning.

There wasn’t a visible oil sheen around the platform, said Michael Yenni, Jefferson Parish president during a Monday morning press conference. The rig isn’t used for drilling.

“It gathers oil from three nearby wells,”company spokesman Tim O’Leary told The Times-Picayune. “Then it holds the oil until the tank’s capacity is met,” at which point a barge arrives and moves the stored oil to an onshore site. It also treats and transfers gas from a fourth natural gas well, O’Leary added.

Kenner Police Department received 911 calls about the explosion at about 7:18 p.m. on Sunday. Residents living on the lake’s shore reported a strong explosion and the flames engulfing the rig were visible from land.

The explosion stemmed from a natural gas pipe, said Dave Tibbetts, chief of Eastbank Consolidated Fire Department. The flames were still roaring at 10 p.m., but Monday morning pictures of the platform showed no visible fire. Authorities said the gas pipe was shut off, but the remaining gas inside the rig was let out to burn.

An initial report from the Kenner city government Facebook stated cleaning chemicals ignited on the surface of the platform, but Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto didn’t confirm it as the cause of the explosion.

“At this point, it’s all under investigation,” he said. “The only person who has been on the rig right now is myself and the fire chief and the fire investigator just for a preliminary look to see what has to be assessed, right? Those investigators will get on there later on, hopefully this afternoon, and start figuring out what happened.”

The rig belongs to Clovelly Oil Co. Llc, an oil exploration and production company based in New Orleans. The city extends north all the way to the Lake Pontchartrain.