On Friday morning local time, a fire and explosion ripped through an oil platform owned by Black Elk Energy in the Gulf of Mexico near the mouth of the Mississippi River. The company is a minor oil producer, and was started in 2007 by John Hoffman, a former BP Amoco executive. Despite being a small and relatively new oil company, Black Elk has racked up a long rap sheet of close calls, safety violations, and fines.
Indications are that this oil rig explosion is unlikely to turn into a major disaster, fortunately. The platform was located in 56 feet of water in the West Delta Block 32 of the Gulf of Mexico. According to an interview with Hoffman, workers were in the final stages of a maintenance job when they were to perform a “clean cut” with a saw on a water line. Instead of using a saw, the worker used a cutting torch instead. This ignited vapors in the line, that fire then ignited fuel stored in a nearby tank, causing an explosion.