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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Filed under: Venezuela
soundoff (211 Responses)
  1. John K

    Dennis, I doubt very much that Hugo Chavez has hired Halliburton to do ANYTHING, let alone set foot on one of his gas rigs.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. dunk

    He reported it because they rescued all the workers and there's no leak, in stark comparison to what happened in the Gulf. He will take any opportunity to try and make himself look better than America.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |

    CARACAS, Venezuela — An offshore natural-gas platform sank off Venezuela on Thursday, and 95 workers were rescued safely, the government said.
    All of the workers on the Aban Pearl platform off eastern Sucre state were safely evacuated, and the sinking poses no threat to the environment, Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez told state television.
    The navy rescued the workers using a frigate and boats after the gas platform disappeared into the Caribbean Sea at 1:50 a.m. Houston time, Ramirez said.
    President Hugo Chavez announced the sinking on Twitter early Thursday, saying: “To my sorrow, I inform you that the Aban Pearl gas platform sank moments ago. The good news is that 95 workers are safe.”
    Officials are investigating what caused the platform to sink, Ramirez said. He said there was a problem with the flotation systems of the semi-submergible platform that led to a massive water leak in one area.
    He said alarms went off three hours before the sinking, giving the crew time to evacuate. Three workers including the captain stayed behind until it was clear that the platform was at risk of collapsing, and then abandoned the rig, Ramirez said.
    Unlike the disastrous oil spill caused by a rig explosion off the coast of Louisiana on April 20, the sinking of the gas rig posed no apparent threat to the environment, officials said.
    Ramirez said a tube connecting the rig to the gas field was disconnected and safety valves shut.
    “There’s no problem of any sort of any leak from the field into the environment,” Ramirez said. The rig was operating in waters about 525 feet (160 meters) deep.
    Last week, Ramirez stood atop the platform on live television as its gas flare was lit to inaugurate the project. Chavez praised the project at the time as an important step in Venezuela’s efforts to tap its huge natural-gas deposits, saying, “We’re making history.”
    The exploration platform at the Dragon 6 gas field was operated by the state energy company Petroleos de Venezuela SA off the Paria Peninsula of eastern Venezuela, near Trinidad and Tobago.
    Venezuela, a major oil exporter and OPEC member, is exploring offshore natural-gas fields that are among the biggest known deposits in the world.
    “Before starting operations, this platform was repaired, inspected and certified,” Ramirez told state television. He said it was certified as being “in optimal condition.”
    Specialists will now use one of the robots on a separate drill boat to inspect the underwater structures that supported the platform to try to determine what went wrong, he said.
    Officials have been flying over the area, and the evacuated workers were being taken by boat to the town of Carupano on the coast, Ramirez said.

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

    So Venezuelan safety valves work but the good ole USA has faulty equipment and dead batteries on our rigs?

    May 13, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. doofus

    at least their safety cutoff work

    May 13, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Joe

    What does it say that a rig run by the "best and most capable" American companies sinks and spews millions of gallons of oil, polluting the entire Gulf of Mexico, and a Venezuelan rig sinks and doesn't release so much as a fart of gas? Hey guys listening?!?!

    May 13, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Norm

    Thanks for quoting Chavez like we care what that moron has to say and in spanish on an American news blog. I at least 2/3 of the population can read it by now

    May 13, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mlelvina

    Robbie Cassidy said "Yay... another state ran news agency!"

    Compared to what?... Rupert Mudock's media (Feaux Noise) and other GOP backed propaganda outlets?

    May 13, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  9. cdOG3

    Its a shame Sean Penn was'nt onboard

    May 13, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. PaddyReagan

    For all who subscribe to the Rule of Threes, we await the final act and hope it won't be played out in our North American backyard.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. n jayakumar

    Aban Pearl was semi-submersible rig. It had been described last month as Venezuela"s Pearl – but fabulous work by the Aban employees – EVERYONE safe and NO LEAK as the well had been capped.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jessica

    HALLIBURTON was involved on this one too..!!!

    May 13, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  13. MCC

    What are you people a bunch of 1st grade teachers??? what is with all the spelling corrections?? who the heck cares, you get the gist of the comment, move all much be bored to snot!

    May 13, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. mikemc1970

    Couldn't have happened to a nicer dictator. That's right Penn, I said it. You can't fist discipline me, I'm not a woman.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. DugB

    What a concept, safety valves that actually work and cut off the flow. Amazing!

    May 13, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
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