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Mariner Energy's Offshore Platform Explodes in Gulf of Mexico

On the heels of the worst oil disaster in American history, an offshore platform exploded Thursday in the Gulf of Mexico. All 13 people aboard the rig have been accounted for and are safe, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The platform is owned by Houston-based Mariner Energy (NYSE: ME), whose shares have already tumbled since the incident.

The company says the platform, known as Vermilion Block 380, produces natural gas rather than oil. The cause for the explosion is unknown as of 2 p.m. EDT.

The platform is west of BP's Deepwater Horizon blown-out well and operates in much shallower water.

According to a statement posted on the Mariner Energy Web site, the company "confirms that 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. Updated information will be provided as available."

The Miami Herald reports that "Company records and records from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement -- formerly known as the Minerals Management Service -- show the platform was among hundreds of rigs damaged by Hurricane Ike in 2008... The company's financial statement said it suspended drilling operations while conducting underwater structural repairs and reduced production until the facility was upgraded."

Coast Guard Cmdr. Cheri Ben-Iesau told The Associated Press some rig workers were seen in emergency devices and an assortment of helicopters, airplanes and cutters were immediately dispatched to the scene


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