Mérida, May 13th 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – A gas rig sank off the northeastern coast of Venezuela on Thursday morning. The 95 workers on the rig were safely evacuated, and emergency procedures were performed to prevent subsequent gas leak, according to Energy and Petroleum Minister Rafael Ramírez.
“We want to highlight the calmness, professionalism, and bravery of our workers and supervisors, who carried out their jobs successfully,” Ramírez announced to the press. “It is not possible that a leakage of hydrocarbons into the environment exists because the gas well is blocked by fluid under pressure,” Ramírez explained.
A failure in the rig’s flotation system was detected at 11:23pm on Wednesday night, causing a ten degree inclination in the rig. This allowed water to flood other parts of the system and caused the rig to topple into the Caribbean sea near the maritime border with Trinidad and Tobago at approximately 2:20am, according to Minister Ramirez.
On Thursday morning, President Hugo Chavez announced through his new Twitter profile that the rig had sunk. “The good news is that the 95 workers are alive,” he wrote.
PDVSA has launched an investigation to determine the cause of the collapse, and it plans to have a replacement rig in place within two months, Ramirez announced on Thursday afternoon.
The rig, named Aban Pearl, began drilling last week in the Dragon 6 block of Venezuela’s vast natural gas reserves. It was projected to extract 2.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
The Dragon 6 block is managed jointly by the Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA, and Abban Offshore Ltd. of India, as well as Singapore-based Petromarine Energy Services Ltd.
Venezuela began drilling for gas off its coastline in conjunction with Russia’s Gazprom in late 2008, and has since signed deals with other countries, including the planned construction of gas liquefying plants in Uruguay and Nicaragua.
In 2008, President Chavez proposed the formation of an organization of gas exporting countries to play a similar role to that of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The government estimates its natural gas reserves to be the fourth largest in the world.