The Ocean Was Just on Fire in Mexico, Thanks to a Gas Leak

The blaze transformed the cool, blue water into a boiling inferno.
Jolene Creighton

Earlier today (July 2, 2021), a fire broke out on the surface of the ocean. It resulted from a gas leak coming from an underwater pipeline. The blaze ultimately transformed vast swaths of the water into a boiling inferno. It was dubbed the "Eye of Fire" on social media.

The video of the event is as unbelievable as it is harrowing, showing three enormous ships trying to suffocate the orange flames as they shoot up from the water.  

Angel Carrizales, the Head of Mexico's oil safety regulator, stated on Twitter that the incident "did not generate any spill." He did not explain exactly what was burning on the water's surface or how it was allowed to happen to begin with; however, an unnamed source told Reuters that "the turbomachinery of Ku Maloob Zaap's active production facilities were affected by an electrical storm and heavy rains." This cause has yet to be confirmed by experts. 

Although the toll of the event on local species and habitats remains unclear, fortunately, it doesn't look like the event had a widespread impact. 

The fire occurred near the Yucatan peninsula on an offshore oil platform owned by Pemex, a state oil company. Specifically, it was tied to the company's flagship Ku Maloob Zaap oil development. The fire broke out around 5:15 am local time. Officials say the leak ignited the waters just 500 feet (150 meters) from the platform.

Ultimately, it didn't result in any injuries or loss of human life. Evacuations also weren't necessary, and the company stated that, by 10:45 am local time, normal operating conditions were restored.

But that doesn't mean all is well.

Pemex has a long record of major industrial accidents at its facilities. Over the course of just seven years, more than 100 people have died as a result of fires or explosions that are directly attributable to Pemex. For example, in January 2019, an explosion that occurred during a fuel theft attempt in the state of Hidalgo left 114 people dead.

Ku Maloob Zaap is Pemex's biggest crude oil producer. All-in-all, it accounts for more than 40% of its nearly 1.7 million barrels of daily output. So we're fortunate that the event wasn't far worse. 

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