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Off-Shore Well Still Burning after a Week

November 1, 1986

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ An oil well in the Bay of Campeche burned for the ninth day Friday, and a spokesman for the government oil monopoly Pemex said it was impossible to predict when the well would be capped.

Technicians on Thursday used explosives to blow away part of the platform that blocked access to the well, then extinguished the fire with water, Pemex spokesman Miguel Tomasini said.

But the blaze was deliberately re-ignited to allow petroleum flowing from the well to burn off into the air rather than spilling into the sea, Tomasini said.

Some petroleum spilled into the ocean immediately after the platform was toppled, he said.

Late Thursday, a Pemex statement said the capping might be finished ″in less time than expected.″ But asked for a more specific time limit, Tomasini replied, ″No, no, no, that is impossible to say.″

The Abkatun 91 well caught fire Oct. 23 when 69 men were on the platform, located about 50 miles from Ciudad del Carmen on the Yucatan Peninsula. All the workers were evacuated without injury.

Pemex said the fire is consuming about 17,000 barrels of petroleum daily and estimated the cost of the destroyed platform at $50 million.

Technicians dressed in asbestos suits climbed onto the platform Tuesday and Wednesday to place explosive charges used in blowing part of the platform away.

Tomasini said the cap is outfitted with a valve that will let the petroleum be channeled into a controlled burn.

Storms hampered firefighters’ efforts earlier in the week.

A fire at the Pemex Luna 11 well in Tabasco state, on the Gulf Coast, was extinguished and controlled Oct. 7 after burning for nearly a month.

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