Akal-B platform; Source: Pemex

Fire at Gulf of Mexico platform ends in fatality while multiple workers suffer injuries

Mexico’s state-owned petroleum company Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) has confirmed a fire incident at one of its oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. This tragic incident, which occurred off the coast of Mexico, resulted in the death of one contractor while several offshore workers have been injured.

Akal-B platform; Source: Pemex

According to Pemex, a fire broke out on Saturday, April 6, in the area where the pipelines that handle gas are located at its Akal-B platform, part of the Cantarell production complex in the Bay of Campeche, or Campeche Sound, in the southern area of the Gulf of Mexico region. The company claims that the emergency response plan (PRE) was activated right away.

Initially, nine workers were reported to have sustained non-serious injuries. The list of these offshore workers included two from Pemex and seven from contractors – three from Diavaz and four from Coter – which were sent to Ciudad del Carmen for evaluation.

However, the Mexican energy giant’s update from Sunday, April 7, told a different story about the workers affected by the fire on the Akal-B platform in the Bay of Campeche, which produces 200,000 bopd. Based on the latest assessment, five Pemex workers suffered injuries in the fire.

While two of these workers have first and second-degree burn injuries, they were last reported to be in stable health condition, just like two more, who have bruises. However, a worker, who was in serious health condition, was expected to be mobilized to Mexico City for treatment. Three workers from Diavaz were evaluated at the Social Security hospital and were discharged.

Regarding six workers from Coter, one was evaluated at the Social Security hospital and discharged, three workers with first and second-degree burn injuries were hospitalized in the same institution and found to be in stable health condition, and one hospitalized worker was reported to be in serious health condition.

On the other hand, one of the six workers from Coter suffered a different fate from the other affected workers, since this worker died as a result of the fire that engulfed the platform. Pemex underlines that the inspection and evaluation of the area continue to be carried out to establish the causes of the fire and the actions that allow the re-establishment of platform operations.

This is not the first time such an incident has occurred on one of the Mexican heavyweight’s platforms, as a fire also broke out at the Nohoch – A platform last year in July. At the time, three of the firm’s workers were injured, but out of danger while two workers from an undisclosed private contractor lost their lives in the fire, five more were injured, and one was missing.

Aside from this tragic incident, the ‘eye of fire’, which appeared near the company’s Ku Maloob Zaap oil development in early July 2021, also made the headlines when a gas leak from an underwater pipeline started the blaze. Pemex later said that environmental damage from the incident was avoided due to quick action taken by its workers.

Undoubtedly, inroads have been made in putting measures in place to make work on oil and gas platforms safer. However, tragic incidents, such as these and the one that occurred last month offshore Gabon, hammer home the need to pursue new avenues to ensure the safety of offshore workers.

These offshore incidents also spur a new round of debates about the right way to get workers ready for such high-pressure emergencies and the responsibilities of operators in training their staff to face these types of events.