17 Nov 2012

Two missing in US oil platform blaze

2:26 pm on 17 November 2012

An oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico has exploded in flames, leaving two people missing and badly injuring several others.

The fire ignited when workers were welding a pipe on the deck of the shallow-water platform operated by Houston-based Black Elk Energy, about 30km south-east of Grand Isle, Louisiana.

Twenty-two men were on the rig; 11 were injured, including four who suffered severe burns.

The fire is now out and the US Coast Guard says there appears to be little risk of an oil spill similar to the one that followed the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in 2010, Reuters reports.

No oil was flowing up to the platform at the time of the fire because production was shut off.

The company has told authorities that any spill could be as little as 100 litres.

Federal data shows that Black Elk, a minor producer in the Gulf, has a recent history of close calls, platform incidents and fines, including a $US300,000 federal penalty it paid in September.

Black Elk's website says the firm recently embarked on a major drilling expansion program in the Gulf of Mexico, in which it planned to drill some 23 wells beginning in November this year.

The incident comes a day after BP reached an agreement to pay record penalties of $US4.5 billion for its role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, which spewed millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and killed 11 workers.