Mexico finds possible remains, restores some oil production

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s state-owned oil company said Tuesday the possible remains of two missing subcontractors had been found on one of its oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico following a weekend fire.

Petroleos Mexicanos said it had restored about 17% of the lost production caused by the fire at the platform. The company, known as Pemex, said that by Aug. 30 it hoped to restore all of the 421,000 barrels per day in production knocked out by the blaze.

The platform caught fire after a gas leak during maintenance Sunday, killing five workers and leaving two others missing. Forensic tests were being carried out on the possible remains to see if they belonged to the missing workers.

Pemex Director Octavio Romero said the apparent remains were found in a control room on the platform where temperatures reached around 1,800 degrees (1,000 degrees Celsius). Such heat would have burned the bodies beyond recognition.

The fire at the processing platform in the Ku-Maloob-Zaap field caused the shutdown of 125 wells in the field. That knocked out production equivalent to about one-quarter of Mexico’s daily output of almost 1.7 million barrels per day.

The platform is used to compress gas to re-inject it into wells to stimulate oil pumping and to supply electricity to wells.

Romero said 25 wells that produce about 71,000 barrels per day had already been brought back on line and that an additional 29 producing 110,000 barrels should be back up within 36 hours.

Romero said some of the workers killed were carrying out routine maintenance and cleaning of gas lines on the platform. The maintenance work was being carried out by subcontractors from two firms.

Six workers were injured in the blaze, and one was in serious condition.

Romero said Monday investigations are continuing into the cause of the accident.

“This was the result not of an equipment failure, not of a lack of maintenance, but rather of planned (maintenance) work, where what occurred is known as an accident,” Romero said. “Why did it occur? That is something we will find out in coming days.”

The administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has gone on a ruthless cost-cutting campaign, and critics have said that spending cuts along with Pemex’s staggering debt loads may have affected investment, safety and maintenance.

Romero hotly denied that.

“This is not due to an issue of lack of investment, as some media outlets have said,” Romero said. “It is an issue related to the inherent risks of the oil industry.”

The accident comes less than two months after another Pemex pipeline in the same Gulf field leaked, causing a strange subaquatic fireball that the company said was caused by a bizarre chain of events, including a lightning storm and a simultaneous gas pipeline leak.

A leak in an underwater pipeline allowed natural gas to build up on the ocean floor and once it rose to the surface on July 2, it was probably ignited by a lightning bolt, the company said.

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