More On Rig Owner Mariner Energy

Melissa Block talks to NPR's Jeff Brady about Mariner Energy, the company that owns the platform that exploded Thursday in the Gulf of Mexico.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

More now on the owner of the platform that caught fire today. Mariner Energy, of Houston, has significant operations in the Gulf. And with us to talk about the company is NPR's Jeff Brady. Jeff, you've been looking into the business operation of Mariner Energy. What can you tell us?

JEFF BRADY: Well, the company is based in Houston, has about 330 employees. And about 85 percent of its production comes from the Gulf of Mexico. It's certainly not one of the bigger operators in the Gulf of Mexico, but it's still pretty large. It has interests in 350 offshore federal leases. About a third of those are in development.

And in just one month this year, February, the company says it produced the equivalent of 63,000 barrels of oil. And this year, 2010, was a good year for Mariner. Their stock price has nearly doubled. Understandably, it took a slight dip today. But in April, just before the Deepwater Horizon accident, it was announced that Mariner was going to be taken over by a much larger company, Apache Corporation, in a $4 billion deal. And that deal is still expected to close sometime in the next four to six weeks.

BLOCK: Okay, now if I understand this right, the platform, the rig that exploded was not a drilling rig. What can you tell us about it?

BRADY: Right. It's not a drilling platform. It's a production platform. Drilling is, you know, just when you're first drilling the well and after that, you're producing oil - or in this case, you're actually producing gas, natural gas. And so because of that, we're probably not going to see something like the Deepwater Horizon accident, assuming that it's still leaking. And it looks like it may not be.

But that well was producing about 9.2 million cubic feet of natural gas a day. And there was a little bit of oil being produced on the site - about 1,400 barrels.

BLOCK: Jeff, what do you know about Mariner's safety record?

BRADY: Well, we've been plowing through the government databases on this. And so far I found about a dozen reports of incidents - most of them minor, about half of those involved violations; 2008 certainly was the worst year for Mariner. I found six incidents in 2008 alone. There's a whole list of violations that year. In June, there was a fire on a production platform in shallow water, about 21 miles offshore. That caused about $40,000 in damage.

But there were no violations reported. Later, there was a collision between a 400-foot barge that was being towed at night, and then it crashed into a shut-in well. But that was just minor damage. There were some workers evacuated because of a blowout in about 300 feet of water.

So overall, not the best record in the Gulf, but probably not the worst record. And these are industrial operations, and accidents happen.

BLOCK: This explosion, Jeff, comes - obviously - at a time of intense scrutiny of the oil and gas business in the Gulf, given the BP explosion. What have you heard, if anything, from industry today about what happened?

BRADY: This is such a sensitive time for them. They're already worried about the effects of the Deepwater Horizon accident, and what new regulations are going to come out of that. Just yesterday, the industry held a big rally in Houston. There were about 5,000 people there, mostly oil workers and supporters of the industry. And then something like this happens.

And it's just kind of this collective groan all across this industry. And it's not an industry that communicates very much in good times. But certainly when something like this happens, they shut down. But essentially, they're just saying to me, kind of off the record, it's a really bad time for us to have to deal with something like this when we're already worried about what's going to happen to the future of our industry.

BLOCK: Okay, Jeff, thanks very much.

BRADY: Thank you, Melissa.

BLOCK: That's NPR's Jeff Brady, talking about the explosion of an offshore oil and gas platform today in the Gulf of Mexico.

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