Chevron draining natural gas after worker death

NEW ORLEANS — Authorities said that a Chevron Corp. subsidiary was still releasing natural gas Sunday from a pipeline off the Louisiana coast where a Saturday incident killed a maintenance worker.

Col. Mike Edmonson, the superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, said his agency and the U.S. Coast Guard intend to send a joint team to the platform Monday to start an investigation.

The Chevron platform is part of a natural gas gathering system and the pipeline was shut-in after the accident. The gas is being released to relieve pressure and allow repairs to be performed safely.

Chevron spokesman Gareth Johnstone said the company believes the incident was caused by a valve blowing out on the offshore production platform, though he said the company is continuing to investigate. He said Chevron Pipe Line Co. has monitors on site and is flying over the area regularly.

The body of the maintenance worker, who has not been identified, was released to the Vermillion Parish coroner for an autopsy. A deputy coroner said Sunday that the office was not yet ready to release a name. Two other workers suffered minor injuries. They and one uninjured man worked for a contractor. Johnstone did not respond to questions about the name of the contracting company.

Some natural gas condensate was released to the water Saturday, but Johnston said it dissipated. The well is located south of the western tip of Marsh Island.

Because the accident occurred in Louisiana waters, the state is the lead investigative agency.

The incident happened around 11 a.m. and state police weren’t called until 2 p.m. Edmonson said he didn’t want to judge whether the three hour delay in reporting the blowout was justified

“We’ll look at all of that,” he told The Associated Press Sunday in a phone interview. “We’ll look at exactly what transpired in that time to see if it was a timely notification, but it’s still way too early to determine any of that.”

Chevron operates Henry Hub, a junction of 13 pipelines near Erath so important that it’s used to set the price of natural gas futures traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Johnstone said he couldn’t say how much gas production was being impeded, but said about 30 miles of the Henry gas gathering system remained shut in.

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