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Production Platform On Fire South Of Louisiana, U.S. Coast Guard Reports

An offshore production platform is on fire, some 90 miles south of Vermilion Bay, below Marsh Island, Louisiana. It is owned by Mariner Energy, Inc.

UPDATE at 1:40 p.m. ET: NPR's Debbie Elliott spoke with Coast Guard Petty Officer Mathew Masachi, who told her that "Mariner Energy did report a sheen on the water's surface that is one nautical mile by 100 feet."

That seemingly contradicts what Mariner spokesman Patrick Cassidy told CNN earlier this hour, that there was "no hydrocarbon spill reported after an initial flyover."

UPDATE at 1:03 p.m. ET: Mariner Energy has released a statement, confirming "a fire has occurred at a production platform located on Vermilion Block 380, approximately 100 miles from the Louisiana coast."

All 13 members of the crew have been evacuated and safely accounted for. No injuries have been reported. In an initial flyover, no hydrocarbon spill was reported.

Mariner has notified and is working with regulatory authorities in response to this incident. The cause is not known, and an investigation will be undertaken. During the last week of August 2010, production from this facility averaged approximately 9.2 million cubic feet of natural gas per day and 1,400 barrels of oil and condensate.

UPDATE at 12:54 p.m. ET: David Reed, a paramedic on a neighboring rig, some 14 miles away from the platform that exploded, told CNN that he and his coworkers "started hearing chatter over all the radio frequencies, and they were calling for all boats to come and assist in the rescue."

We did not know many people were in the water. It was probably about 20 or 30 minutes later that they reported there were 13 people in the water.

UPDATE at 12:41 p.m. ET: In a statement, the Coast Guard issued this statement: "We continue to gather information as we respond with full force, and have oil spill response assets ready for immediate deployment should we receive any reports of pollution."

At his daily briefing, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the platform was inactive, positioned 340 feet above the sea floor.

"Vermillion 380 is a fixed, manned production platform," the New Orleans Times- Picayune reports. "It's not a well being drilled for oil, like BP's Macondo well and it's not a floating rig like the Deepwater Horizon."

At approximately 10:30 a.m. ET, the Coast Guard received a report of an explosion at the site, Petty Officer Bill Colclough told CNN.

There were 13 people aboard the rig. All of them have been accounted for, Colclough said. Twelve of the employees were reportedly in immersion suits.

UPDATE at 12:37 p.m. ET: The Coast Guard reports all 13 people are aboard a commercial rescue vessel.

They will be taken to Terrebonne General Medical Center in Houma, Louisiana, for medical treatment.

At least seven Coast Guard rescue helicopters and two airplanes have been dispatched to the rig location from Houston and New Orleans. In addition, three Coast Guard cutters -- USCGC Decisive, Manta and Skipjack -- are en route, along with four civilian vessels.

No information about the cause of the explosion and fire is available. An investigation is in progress, the Coat Guard spokesman said.

As of last year, Mariner Energy, which is headquartered in Houston, "had interests approximately 240 blocks on the continental shelf and 100 blocks in deepwater," and "net interests in more than 185,000 acres, primarily in the Permian Basin and Gulf Coast."

About 85 percent of the company’s production comes from offshore, with a growing share of that coming from deepwater developments such as Geauxpher, Bass Lite and Northwest Nansen.

We'll update this post as the story develops.

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David Gura
Based in New York, David Gura is a correspondent on NPR's business desk. His stories are broadcast on NPR's newsmagazines, All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and he regularly guest hosts 1A, a co-production of NPR and WAMU.