Natural gas spews from the Hercules 265 drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana on July 23, 2013.

Natural Gas Well Causes Fire on Rig

A natural gas well began leaking and then caught fire before spreading to a rig that continues to burn.

Natural gas spews from the Hercules 265 drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana on July 23, 2013.

Natural gas spews from the Hercules 265 drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana on July 23, 2013.

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A natural gas well in the Gulf of Mexico continued to burn on Wednesday after a blowout forced dozens of workers to evacuate the day before.

The initial blowout happened about 55 miles off the coast of Louisiana at 9:45 a.m. EDT on Tuesday in a natural gas well 154 feet under water, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. Forty-four workers who were preparing the well for production were evacuated, and none were injured, according to BSEE.

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Although the well continues to leak gas, no oil is being released, the agency said. Inspectors who were flying over the area reported seeing a cloud of natural gas above the Hercules 265 jack-up rig, which caught on fire Tuesday evening, and a "light sheen on the water" about half a mile wide, which was "quickly dissipating."

 

The BSEE said inspectors will stay at a nearby platform to monitor the situation. The agency said it is also closely monitoring response efforts to stop the flow of gas.

"Offshore oil and gas operators need to re-affirm their aggressive approach to the safety of well operations in light of this event and other recent well control events," said Lars Herbst, BSEE Gulf of Mexico regional director, in a statement.

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The Hercules rig caught fire when an explosion occurred at about 11:50 p.m. EDT, according to UPI.

The extent of the damage to the rig is currently unknown, according to Hercules Offshore, the company that owns and operates the rig. It is in turn working with Walter Oil & Gas, the company that operates the natural gas well, as well as authorities to determine the cause of the incident.

"Our immediate focus is on stopping the flow of natural gas from the well," Hercules Offshore said in a statement. "All parties involved are working with third-party experts to develop a plan to regain control over the natural gas well, which could include the drilling of a relief well."

Officials told The Associated Press that the blowout would not be near as damaging as the oil spill that occurred in 2010 when a BP oil rig exploded. Eleven people were killed in the explosion and the rig leaked millions of gallons of oil into the gulf.

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Earlier this month, the BSEE responded to another loss of well control about 74 miles off the coast of Louisiana. That well leaked natural gas for several days before it was sealed.

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