Offshore gas leak in Gulf of Mexico diminished, relief rig at the ready

Apache Corp. has significantly reduced the amount of natural gas that was leaking near a shallow-water platform in the Gulf of Mexico, but a drilling rig is on site should a relief well be needed, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.

The leak was spotted on Jan. 16 in the water next to the East Cameron Block 278 Platform B, located about 93 miles south of Lake Charles, La., in about 173 feet of water.

Apache first abandoned the platform as a safety precaution but later returned after determining that operations to shut-in production wells related to the platform could safely resume.

The company moved a jack-up rig, the Hercules 200, on location Jan. 23 to drill a relief well in the event other efforts to stop the leak failed. The rig is currently installing structural casing, the preliminary step in preparing the area for drilling, according to the ocean energy bureau.

The bubbling and discolored water is believed to be a mixture of sediment from the ocean floor, gas, and formation water, but it is not leaving a sheen normally associated with oil.