Five Dead, Two Missing After Fire on Pemex Offshore Platform

Platform complex at the Ku-Maloob-Zaap field area (Pemex)

Published Aug 23, 2021 4:42 PM by The Maritime Executive

A fire on a platform at Pemex's Ku-Maloob-Zaap offshore complex last weekend left six workers injured and at least one dead, the company reported Monday. As of Monday morning, five contractors remain missing. [Updated: As of Monday afternoon, Pemex has confirmed five dead, six injured and two missing.]

The fire broke out at about 1510 hours on Sunday, and the platform was shut in to contain the blaze. It was under control by 1630, according to Pemex. 

Early on Monday, Pemex reported that three of its workers and three contractors from COTEMAR were injured in the blaze, along with one Pemex worker who sustained a nervous breakdown. Three COTEMAR employees and two contractors from Bufete de Monitoreo de Condiciones e Integridad (Conditions and Integrity Monitoring Firm) were still missing. 

"PEMEX expresses its sincere condolences to the relatives of the deceased person and provides support to the workers affected by this incident, as well as their families," the company said in a statement. "A root cause investigation will be conducted to determine the origin of the fire."

According to Pemex director Octavio Romero, the fire and shut-in have had a massive effect on Mexico's oil output, cutting back production by more than 420,000 barrels per day. Ku-Maloob-Zaap is Pemex's most valuable and productive offshore asset. Production should be back up within days, Romero said. 

The blaze was the second fire at Ku-Maloob-Zaap in a month, following a leak in a 12-inch gas pipeline that resulted in a roiling cauldron of burning natural gas next to the Ku-Charly platform. After last month's fire, no injuries were reported and no evacuation was required, Pemex said. Angel Carrizales, the executive director of Mexico's Security, Energy and Environment Agency, said that the gas line rupture did not result in any release of oil. 

According to a 2016 report produced by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and The Guardian, 190 workers and contractors for Pemex (onshore and offshore) were killed in fires, explosions and other accidents over a seven-year period beginning in 2009. One of the company's offshore facilities burned twice in as many years: the Abkatún-Alpha platform caught fire in April 2015, killing seven, and again in February 2016, killing three.