Fire burns after tug, barge hit Louisiana gas pipeline



NEW ORLEANS — The Coast Guard says it will likely take until Thursday or later for a pipeline fire in Louisiana to burn itself out.

The blaze began Tuesday night when the pipeline was struck by a tug boat and barge.

Capt. Jonathan Burton said the barge was carrying 92,000 gallons of oil, but none was believed to be leaking. He said a sheen, which could be from diesel fuel, was spotted in Bayou Perot about 30 miles south of New Orleans.

Four people aboard the tugboat were injured, one severely.

Smoke rising from the site was visible Wednesday from downtown New Orleans.

Burton said investigators hadn’t determined why the vessels hit the pipeline, owned by Chevron.

Chevron has cut the flow of gas, but some still remains in the section of pipeline where the collision occurred.

Four people aboard the 47-foot tug Shanon E. Settoon were injured, one severely, in the collision Tuesday at about 6 p.m. Water at the collision site is very shallow.

The 19-mile section of pipeline was carrying liquefied petroleum gas. It had been isolated from other conduits by its owner, San Ramon, Calif.-based Chevron, so only what was inside could burn.

“All crew members were able to exit the tug; the captain reportedly suffered second to third-degree degree burns,” the Coast Guard said in a news release early Wednesday.

The barge was holding 92,000 gallons of crude oil, the Coast Guard said. The tug boat had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel. Settoon Towing of Pierre Part, La., lists the tug among its vessels on its website.

WWL-TV reported that the tug’s captain was transferred to the burn center at Baton Rouge General Hospital.

The area is along the northern reaches of Barataria Bay, which was heavily affected by oil from the BP spill in 2010. It is mostly small communities where people often make their living from the sea, either working in the oil and gas industry or as fishermen.

The region where the fire was burning is crisscrossed by pipelines and wellheads are a common sight in the shallow waters of the bayou and bay shoreline.

Bayou Perot was the scene of an explosion and fire on a specialized oil rig in December 2010 in which three men were injured. The explosion happened while the men were welding and there was no pollution, the Coast Guard reported.