On December 4, a gas line on the Gunashli 10 oil platform was damaged in a storm, igniting a fire that has been burning ever since.
The deepwater oil rig is operated solely by SOCAR, Azerbaijan’s state-owned national oil company, which originally claimed that the fire would be extinguished by December 6. The oil fires at the well were put out on the 17th, but the gas wells continue to burn.
Gunashli 10 services 24 oil wells and four gas wells, producing 920 tons of oil and one million cubic meters of gas per day. The cause of the fire has been traced to a damaged gas riser.
Footage of the burning oil platform can be seen at the 3:24 timestamp in the video below:
SOCAR has not disclosed how much oil has spilled from the deepwater rig.
There were 63 crew members aboard the Gunashli platform at the time of the incident. Rescue workers were able to airlift 33 men from the rig, but 30 more were lost when the second lifeboat plunged into the water. Since that time, the bodies of eight men have been recovered and 22 remain missing. Families of the dead and missing workers have received US$12,800 as a “one-time financial assistance” package from the Azeri government and SOCAR.
Oil well blowout specialist Boots & Coots has been called in to assist in sealing the damaged well. A Halliburton-owned company, Boots & Coots has also assisted in sealing the ongoing methane leak in Los Angeles’ San Bernardino Valley.
The Gunashli 10 deepwater oil platform is part of a complex of fossil fuel mining platforms located in the Caspian Sea’s Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli (ACG) offshore oil field. Discovered in the early 1970s, ACG is the largest oilfield in the Azerbaijan sector of the Caspian basin. Its largest shareholder is BP, the same company that operated the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico prior to its notorious oil spill. BP oversees ACG operations on behalf of the Azerbaijan International Operating Company. According to BP, ACG produced 640,000 barrels of oil in the first nine months of 2015, and a total of 2.8 barrels of oil over its lifetime.