A fire on an offshore platform in the Gulf of Mexico created a media furor yesterday. Several of the initial news reports contained inaccuracies that tended to exacerbate America's heightened awareness of--and sensitivity to--offshore drilling. The reaction was predictable: Politicians demanded answers, and environmental groups called on the government to keep the drilling moratorium in effect.
As we've stated before on this blog, the oil and natural gas industry believes no accident is acceptable. Offshore workers are trained in the proper way to manage operations and are drilled in safety precautions. We're thankful that all 13 crew members on the platform are accounted for.
The Mariner Energy platform fire was an industrial accident that should not be compared to the Deepwater Horizon. "There was no blowout, no explosion, no injuries, no spill," according to Patrick Cassidy, the company's director of investor relations. (The New York Times)
Furthermore, the fire occurred during routine platform maintenance while crew members were cleaning and painting. It was not caused by any drilling or production operations. By mid-afternoon yesterday, the fire had been extinguished.
Also, the automatic safety valves worked swiftly to shut-in the oil and natural gas to protect the environment. A U.S. Coast Guard official yesterday said, "The company monitors each of these wells, and their data showed there's no flow." (The New York Times)
Is the Mariner Energy fire a sufficient reason to continue the drilling moratorium? Absolutely not.
America's energy reality remains unchanged. The demand for oil and natural gas will continue to grow in the coming decades. The United States must produce more of its own domestic resources to fuel economic growth and improve U.S. energy security.