Hercules Offshore: Workers Safe, Rig Damage Unknown

Hercules Offshore (NASDAQ: HERO  ) said today that 44 workers who were evacuated Tuesday from one of its Gulf of Mexico rigs sustained no injuries and that the extent of the damage to the Hercules 265 jackup drilling rig is unknown.

The natural gas well off the Louisiana coast near the rig continued to burn today after it caught fire following a blowout. A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement told The Associated Press it was not known what caused the gas to ignite. It also wasn't clear early Wednesday how and when crews would attempt to extinguish the blaze

On Tuesday, Hercules put out a press release announcing that a Hercules Offshore drilling rig being operated in the Gulf of Mexico had experienced a "well control incident." The company today issued an update on the 44 rig workers and the current status of the problem unit.

All 44 rig workers were evacuated safely, and "no injuries sustained as a result of the incident," Hercules Offshore said. According to the press release, "the natural gas flowing from the well ignited which spread to the rig. The extent of the damage to the rig is currently unknown."

Hercules Offshore is working with regulators and Walter Oil & Gas, the company operating the rig, to determine the cause of the incident. The company said it was awaiting daylight to assess the environmental impact.

The immediate concern, Hercules Offshore said, is to stem the flow of the natural gas and regain control of the rig, which "could include the drilling of a relief well." 

-- Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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