msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 9/2/2010 4:53:16 PM ET 2010-09-02T20:53:16

Just a few months ago Mariner Energy was celebrating its imminent marriage to Apache Corp.

On Thursday, Mariner found itself in the middle of a potential BP-style crisis, with a rig off the coast of Louisiana that exploded and perhaps was leaking oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Mariner shares dropped on the news, shedding more than 2 percent. Shares of Apache also fell.

The rig explosion and concerns that Hurricane Earl may threaten refining capacity along the East Coast sent oil prices higher. U.S. crude settled at $75.02 a barrel, up $1.11 on the day.

Mariner, a Houston-based independent oil and gas company, is a relatively small player compared with BP, Shell and other oil giants operating in the Gulf.

In April, Apache said it planned to buy the company for $2.7 billion, though the deal hasn't been completed yet.

Most of Mariner's operations are in West Texas and along the Gulf Coast. The company also owns more than 240 blocks in shallow parts of the Gulf of Mexico.

The platform that exploded is called Vermilion 380. According to regulatory filings, Mariner owns 100 percent of the platform.

Mariner said in a statement that the platform had been producing both oil and natural gas. During the last week of August, the Vermilion produced an average of 9.2 million cubic feet of natural gas per day and 1,400 barrels of oil.

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It's unclear if the platform was producing when the explosion occurred, but the Coast Guard said that a mile-long sheen is now visible.

The explosion was reported around 10 a.m. EDT by a commercial helicopter. The company said all 13 crew members were evacuated and no injuries were reported.

Mariner's platform is in 340 feet of water, which would make any spill response much easier than the response to BP's blown-out well. The BP well is about 200 miles east of the Mariner platform and lies at a depth of 5,000 feet. Crews were forced to rely on remote-operated vehicles to tend to the underwater equipment. Experts say shallow-water wells are much easier to handle.

The Coast Guard responded to the explosion with helicopters, airplanes and cutters.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Oil platform explodes off Louisiana coast

  1. Closed captioning of: Oil platform explodes off Louisiana coast

    >>> good day, everybody. i'm contessa brewer . we are following breaking news about another oil rig explosion. this one 80 miles south of vermillion bay. the rig is on fire. it's owned by mariner energy. we've been told by officials that 13 people were on the rig and have been accounted for. they have notiest been rescued. they are in the water wearing protective suits, and there are helicopters responding now. we are waiting to get new information about this incident there in the gulf of mexico . again, that an oil rig has exploded there and people who, though they escaped the burning rig, are awaiting rescue. let's go to anne thompson , who, of course, has been following developments about the other oil spill . are you getting any new information about this mariner energy rig?

    >> reporter: well, we can add a couple of things, contessa. first of all, apparently this well, which is vermilion oil rig 380 was in about 2,500 feet of water. the rig was not a production rig. and so we don't foe at this point if there is a spill associated with this fire. the rig is on fire. we can tell you of those 1 people, one apparently is injured. but all are accounts for. and that is certainly good news. there are several choppers and airplanes on their way to the site. it is significantly west and south of where the bp deepwater horizon rig exploded. so it is in the gulf of mexico . but not geographically close to that situation. the people taking the lead on this is the coast guard out of new orleans. they have sent rescue teams there to try to get the 13 people out of the water and get that one person in particular to a hospital.

    >> we're just getting a note now, the terribone emergency medical center was put on alert to expect victims for the oil rig explosion. so far none has arrived. we don't know when that might be happening. we have on the phone with me right now chief john edwards of the coast guard . chief, bring me up to date about what you're learning about this situation.

    >> reporter: good morning. everything you just said is correct. we do have all 13 accounted for. they were wearing emergency suits. they were able to get those in time, which is aid against hypothermia or anything like that. additionally we also have a 65 coast guard rescue helicopter on scene right now picking people up out of the water. so we're affecting our search and rescue mission as we speak.

    >> do you happen to know any sort of injury list, the workers in the water, have they been hurt?

    >> caller: well, initially i had a report of one injured. to what extent i don't know. it's an unconfirmed report. what i do know is we have all 13 of them together. they're wearing the gumby suits and we're getting them out of the water.

    >> do you know if this oil rig continues to burn?

    >> caller: let me clarify something. it's not a rig like the dpeep deepwater horizon. it's a platform. and as far as i know it's still on fire.

    >> does that change the risk factor of oil or toxins leading into the water?

    >> caller: i could. but i don't know the specifics on that. right now we're focused on the search and rescue mission.

    >> chief, i appreciate the information you've been able to give us in clarifying some of that. we'll stay on top of it. an anne, can you clarify the difference between this being an oil rig and an oil platform .

    >> reporter: i wish i could. but i cannot. the good news is obviously fewer people were on this platform than on the deepwater horizon where you remember over 100 were on board when it exploded. we know there's a smaller human element to this. the question is what is the environmental danger from this fire? it's just too early to know.

    >> i understand there's an update now about the deepwater horizon well as well.

    >> yes. bp through its twitter counaccount put out it resumed trying to move the capping stack on top of the macondo well that caused all the problems in the deepwater horizon. it's the first in a multi-step process. the enterprise will try to lift up the capping stack. then the q-4,000 will go on and latch onto the blowout preventer . the blowout preventer failed to work on that rig. it's a key piece of evidence in the criminal investigation as to what happened on april 20th . once the seas are calm, and they need seas of three feet or less, they will begin to lift out the blowout preventer . it is a big and heavy lift . it is more than 1 million pounds. they've got to bring it up a mile through the water. eventually it will be barged to an evidence collection site in new orleans. then the development driller two will put the new blowout preventer on top of the well, it's it. once it basses that test, they can start.

    >> thank you very much. we're staying on top of developments about the oil platform exploding in louisiana. as soon as i get new updates, i'll

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