State-owned oil company Pemex said a combination of a gas pipeline leak and a lightning storm caused the oceanic fireball which lit up the water in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday.
The fire started around 5:15 a.m. 150 meters from the Ku-C drilling platform in the Ku-Maloob-Zaap extraction complex, located on the Bank of Campeche. The Ku-C platform was unoccupied at the time and there were no injuries reported.
Pemex sent out fire control boats to tackle the blaze, which took five hours to extinguish.
A leak in an underwater pipeline allowed natural gas to build up on the ocean floor and once it rose to the surface it was most likely ignited by a lightning bolt, the company said.
The storm was so intense that operators had already shut off pumping stations serving the offshore rig before the accident.
“There was no oil spill and the immediate action taken to control the surface fire avoided environmental damage,” the company added.
Gusatvo Alanis, a board member with Mexico’s environmental law center CEMDA, told Reuters he thinks it is much too soon to conclude that the fire caused no environmental damage.
Pemex should commit to preparing a “detailed study of the (environmental) impact caused by the fire” as well as a plan to repair the damage, according to a statement signed by more than two dozen environmental groups, including Greenpeace as well as CEMDA.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg reposted a video clip of the fireball on her Twitter account. “The people in power call themselves ‘climate leaders’ as they open up new oilfields, pipelines and coal power plants — granting new oil licenses exploring future oil drilling sites … This is the world they are leaving for us,” she wrote.
The president has bet heavily on drilling more wells and buying or building oil refineries and touts oil as “the best business in the world.”