Giant fire erupts in Gulf after pipeline leak

Fire officials spent more than five hours Friday putting out a fire that erupted in the Gulf of Mexico that officials with Mexico's state-owned oil company said was due to a pipeline leak.

Videos of the blaze west of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula went viral on social media, with users calling the massive circular blaze erupting from within the water an “eye of fire.” 

The flames could be seen a short distance away from an oil platform at Petróleos Mexicanos's (Pemex) Ku Maloob Zaap oil field, which Reuters reported is the company’s most important oil center.

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In some footage from the incident, several boats could be seen surrounding the blaze attempting to douse the flames. 

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Reuters reported that company workers used nitrogen to control the fire. 

Pemex said in a press release that the fire began around 5:15 a.m. local time following a gas leak in its 12-inch submarine pipeline off the platform located just up the southern rim of the Gulf.

The company said emergency officials responded to the incident “immediately,” activating security protocols and receiving help from fire fighting vessels from nearby Santa Cruz Island, Campeche Bay and Bourbon Alienor.

Pemex added that it was able to close the valves of the pipeline, with the fire extinguished by about 10:45 a.m.

The Mexican oil company, which said it was investigating what exactly caused the fire, said there were no injuries reported, and it was able to continue production at the facility.

A Pemex incident report that was shared with Reuters stated that "The turbomachinery of Ku Maloob Zaap's active production facilities were affected by an electrical storm and heavy rains," though it was not immediately clear if this led to the oil leak. 

Angel Carrizales, the head of Mexican oil safety regulator ASEA, tweeted Friday that there was no reported oil spill as a result of the incident. 

The incident comes days after Pemex was accused in a Natural Gas Intelligence report of increasing the rate at which it burns off excess methane and boosting production of high-sulfur fuel oil (HSFO), which is considered a heavy pollutant. 

The company has also been associated with a number of industrial accidents, including a 2019 explosion that it said resulted from a rupture caused by an illegal tap. 

More than 100 people were killed and dozens of others injured in the explosion in the small town of Tlahuelilpan, located about 62 miles north of Mexico City.