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Black Elk rig fire raises safety questions

Nov. 19, 2012 at 8:13 AM

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- An explosion last week on a rig in the Gulf of Mexico is a reminder of the dangers of working offshore, a U.S. lawmaker said.

Black Elk Energy, a company operating offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, announced it hired a commercial dive team to look for a missing rig worker after the U.S. Coast Guard announced it was suspending search and rescue efforts.

The company last week confirmed that a fire erupted on its oil platform drilling about 17 miles south of Louisiana in shallow waters.

The explosion came one day after BP announced a settlement related to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the worst offshore spill.

U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, said the Black Elk incident "raises a number of questions" about safety measures in place for offshore rig work.

"This is yet another reminder that our work on oil drilling safety is not complete," he said in a statement.

Black Elk's platform wasn't in operation at the time. Fire erupted as rig workers used a torch to cut an oil pipeline on the platform.

The company said there was no visible oil sheen near the site of the incident.

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