Ships douse a Mariner Energy oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico to extinguish a fire that started early Thursday.
The fixed platform's base is 340 feet (103 meters) underwater, much shallower than the 5,000-foot (1500-meter) depth of BP's Deepwater Horizon rig, a once floating rig that now rests on the Gulf seafloor after an oil rig explosion in April.
Lee Hunt, the president of the International Association of Drilling Contractors, told ABC News that the Mariner Energy platform "doesn't have a drilling rig on it, it's essentially a small refinery. ... Pure oil never comes up." Rather than boring into the seafloor for oil, platforms such as the one that caught fire Thursday pump oil out of existing wells.
The Coast Guard noted that, like other nondrilling rigs, the Mariner Energy platform doesn't have a blowout preventer, a safety device that cuts off an oil well in case of failure. The blowout preventer at BP's Deepwater Horizon wellhead famously failed, allowing millions of barrels of oil to leak into the Gulf of Mexico after the April oil rig explosion.