What is the Gulf of Mexico?
The Gulf of Mexico is an ocean basin located to the southeast of the United States and northeast of Mexico and Belize. The gulf is an abundant source of oil, with the foundation of the huge oil and gas industry supported by the continuously working oil drilling rigs on the gulf. Additionally, there are underwater pipelines present in the gulf to transport the oil between the platforms and storage.
What caused the fire?
The fire was caused by a gas leak from an underwater pipeline, located to the west of the Yucatán peninsula. It was eventually extinguished after several hours with nitrogen. According to Simon George, a professor of organic geochemistry at Macquarie University, “The fire was caused by methane and… other wet gas components igniting at the ocean surface after leaking from the pipeline.” In order to keep the fire going, the professor also suggests that there must have been a constant inflow of natural gas to sustain the fire. While the fire caused panic, the professor also concluded that the fire consumed leaking hydrocarbons, slightly minimizing the greenhouse gas buildup.
Pemex is a state-owned Mexican petroleum company, and controls the platform the leaking underwater pipeline was connected to. Pemex had jurisdiction, and gave useful updates that no injuries or casualties were reported, while the fire took slightly over 5 hours to fully extinguish. An interesting detail is that the platform in question was part of Pemex’s new flagship oil development project known as Ku Maloob Zaap. Ku Maloob Zaap is located just slightly north from the southern rim of the Gulf of Mexico, and it is Pemex’s lead producer of crude oil, bringing in over 40% of Pemex’s daily output consisting of almost 1.7 million barrels of oil. An interesting detail is the Pemex has a record of industrial accidents at its facilities, including the Tlahuelilpan pipeline explosion, a fatal blast killing over 137 people in the Mexican state of Hidalgo.