May 13th, 2010
11:49 AM ET

Gas rig sinks off coast of Venezuela, government says

Venezuelan government officials said Thursday they are investigating why a natural gas rig sank off the nation's coast in the early morning hours, the state-run energy company said.

All 95 workers on board were rescued and no gas leaks were detected because safety valves cut off the flow, said the company, Petroleos de Venezuela, also known as PDVSA.

The Aban Pearl platform, in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Sucre state, started to list at 11:23 p.m. Wednesday, PDVSA said on its website. An inspection of the four support columns detected massive flooding and an evacuation was started, the company said.

The captain and two engineers stayed aboard until the rig listed to 45 degrees and then also evacuated, PDVSA said.

No environmental damage occurred, the company said.

The rig was extracting natural gas from a well called Dragon 6, which was immediately sealed, PDVSA said.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez broke the news of the rig's sinking on his Twitter account, @Chavezcandanga.

"With sorrow I inform you that the gas platform Aban Pearl sank a few moments ago," Chavez wrote around 3 a.m. "The good news is that the 95 workers are safe."

He posted another tweet a few minutes later that said, "They were evacuated and at this moment two patrol boats from our Navy are moving to the area. We will go forward and will TRIUMPH. Viva VENEZUELA."

The rig workers were picked up by the tanker Petro Saudi Discover and were transported to land, some by helicopter. Four of the workers appeared later Thursday at a briefing on the incident broadcast by the government-owned VTV station.

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soundoff (211 Responses)
  1. Phil

    It seems most people here do not have a clue what they are talking about. BP is a British company (British Petroleum) and Transocean is a Swiss company, one of the largest drillers in the world.

    BP is the company in charge that specifies what it sub-contractors (Transocean and Haliburton) do.

    Just because it was on American waters doesn't mean it was all Americans running the show.

    May 13, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  2. diego

    If the "seabeds start shifting" you can "listen to your heart" but all you will probably hear is, "oh crap! I'm gonna die!!!"


    May 13, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. YankeeVictor

    Jessica is right, floating rigs have been in use in Venezuela for a long, long time... way before this clown "chavez" came around... PDVSA used to have the very best venezuelan professionals, but not anymore (we all fled the country)... the sinking is probably due to lack of maintenance, or general incompetence of the current crew (both very commonplace in the socialist PDVSA)

    May 13, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. YankeeVictor

    by the way, Jessica, you really need to see Venezuela first hand... the so called "Free" services you're mentioning are very-low-standard, or completely unreliable... plus, the everyday violence in the streets kill almost as much people as the "civil war" in Colombia... I hope I don't offend you with my words, but perhaps you're being a little too "Sean Penn" about the venezuelan reality...

    May 13, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. oilfield veteran

    To those of you who think an earthquake did this, read the article. The rig was floating and started taking on water. Earth shifting had nothing to do with it. Same thing with the Deepwater Horizon, it was floating too.

    To those of you whining about valves, the PDVSA well was finished with the drilling phase and ready to produce natural gas. This is called the production phase. Standard practice (including in the Gulf of Mexico) is to install a sub surface safety valve (under the surface of the ground, not just underwater) several hundred feet below the mudline integrated with the production string that will automatically close if the hydraulic pressure being fed to it by lines from the platform is cut off. From what I can gather from the news reports, this valve was in place and they were able to shut the well in. It would not be an acoustically activated valve that many of you are complaining about, that only activates when the well is out of control.

    The U.S. MMS agency requires the sub surface safety valve on all producing wells in the Gulf of Mexico. You can pull up to any platform in the Gulf of Mexico and the see the handle for the emergency shutoff valve. All you have to do is pull on it and the well gets shut in. The key point here is this type of shutoff valve is for producing wells.

    The Deepwater Horizon / BP well was still in the drilling completion phase in over 5000 feet of water and they just finished cementing in the production liner (steel casing that lines the well bore to keep it from collapsing). They were not ready to install the subsurface safety valve and were instead relying on the blowout preventers and hydrostatic pressure for well control. Hydrostatic pressure is the weight of the drilling/completion fluid in the wellbore which is supposed to keep the pressure from the oil/gas in the well under control. BP apparently displaced the heavy completion fluid with lighter seawater and lost control of the well apparently due to a faulty cementing job. The exact reason for the BOP failure has not yet been identified but could be caused by either the liner casing or the cement being forced into the ram chamber of the the blowout preventer or a hydraulic leak or some other cause.

    Drilling and completing a deepwater well is extremely complicated and requires technical expertise from many different disciplines. All you commenters who throw out your one line judgments really should educate yourselves before you blurt out your trash. No I don't work for BP but I am from Louisiana and have spent 15 years working in the oilfield (out of it now) so I have a good idea of how it works. There are extremely rigorous safety standards and practices in place but we are all human after all and sometimes mistakes happen. All we can do is learn from them and improve our processes. Over 33,000 wells have been drilled and completed in the Gulf of Mexico without incident.

    To all of the people complaining about spelling errors, part of the problem might be the size of the font that CNN has set up for typing in comments. It looks like a 6 point font, really tough for people with old eyes like mine!

    May 13, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bobo

    Really people? Reading these comments has made me feel as though my intelligence was slipping away in a sea of stupidity. Somehow, many of you turned this into a 'let's bash political parties we don't like' session when this has nothing to do with democraps or republifails. Not only that, but so very few of the people on here seem to have a grasp of the situation, nor do almost any of you seem to even care about the facts. You all are just happy to read one artical and spew your vitrol and ignorant opinions to anyone who will take but a moment to read it. Here's an idea: look up facts before typing your idiotic and unwanted opinions! Oh, and both the democraps and republifails are corrupt parties who only cator to their corporate masters.

    May 13, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jonny

    Hey guys, what matters is the first test. The next thing you'll hear or see is that the whole of venezuela will sink together with chavez.

    May 13, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Spectre

    Ever wonder if someone is sinking these Rigs on purpose to upset the economy. ???

    May 13, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. andy

    "no gas leaks were detected because safety valves cut off the flow,"

    It's comforting to know a third world country can do things better than our greedy corporate controlled country,

    May 13, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  10. padawan0620

    Hey Mussolini made the trains run on time, Chavez makes the Gas Rigs work correctly!

    May 13, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Robert

    Guess it will hurt bottom line for the stock holders of Halliburton to actually make shutoff values that SHUTOFF.

    We should feel ashamed to have Venezuela being better at offshore drilling than USA. But the corporate greed is probably less there just a thought

    May 13, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Annexian

    Wonder if the CIA sabotaged it to hinder any advantage they might have given BP's horrible kludge?

    May 13, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Retiredmathprofesser

    We need to hire Brazil to show us how they became 100% independent of oil-by growing sugar cane.

    May 13, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  14. oilfield veteran

    Robert, Halliburton did not make the blowout preventer valve used by TransOcean for the Deepwater Horizon rig. Cameron made it.

    May 13, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Wanda

    Wake up people. When news like this comes out of a place like that, it means several hundred people died, the rig blew up, and there's an environmental disaster so huge we'll see it on Google Earth.

    May 13, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
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