‘Eye of Fire’ Off the Campeche Shore Causes CommotionBy Cas Biekmann | Tue, 07/06/2021 - 09:14
An underwater gas leak caused a fire on the ocean surface near Campeche turning into a viral video and attracting worldwide attention. Although national oil company PEMEX extinguished the ‘eye of fire’ that same day on July 2, the event has reignited scrutiny on national and international safety protocols for offshore oil and gas production.
The noteworthy incident occurred off the coast the Yucatan peninsula, near PEMEX’s famous Ku-Maloob-Zaap oil field. The field is responsible for a whopping 40 percent of the NOC’s daily output of nearly 1.7 million barrels. At 5:15 am, the pipeline ruptured, and other factors caused the fire to emerge at a depth of 150 meters.
It took PEMEX around five hours to extinguish the fire, said President Andres Manuel López Obrador in his daily morning press conference. The company reported that the flames were ignited by a gas and nitrogen leak within a natural gas pipeline, which were hit by an electric charge from a nearby storm, causing an explosion. “The turbomachinery of Ku-Maloob-Zaap's active production facilities were affected by an electrical storm and heavy rains," a PEMEX incident report stated. Nobody was injured during the explosion or the efforts to control the damage, during which nitrogen was used to suppress the fire. No evacuations were necessary.
“PEMEX and the Ministry of the Environment already carried out an appraisal and analysis of the losses and we are going to repair the damages. It was an accident,” said López Obrador.
The surreal images of a fire in the middle of the ocean may have served as a source amusement for internet-savvy meme enthusiasts, nevertheless, it caused concern for climate activists and other institutions critical of López Obrador’s preferred policy direction to “rescue” PEMEX and bolster hydrocarbons production in the country. “Insisting on an economic development model based on the use of fossil fuels leaves us at the mercy of these types of accidents,” said Gustavo Ampugnani, Director of Greenpeace in Mexico to news agency EFE. “It is a stagnating policy. Stuck in the past. I understand that the president wants to strengthen the country’s sovereignty, but energy security can be achieved with renewable sources of energy,” Ampugnani continued.
Following PEMEX’s own inquiry into the matter, the company reported that environmental damage was avoided because of the rapid intervention of its workers. “There was no oil spill and the immediate action taken to control the surface fire avoided environmental damage,” the statement read. Groups like Greenpeace and CEMDA have called for a more detailed study.