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May 14, 2010

Rig sinks, Chavez tweets

At 12.38. a.m. yesterday, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez used his Blackberry to send the tweet: "Con pesar les informo q se hundio la plataforma gasifera Aban Pearl hace pocos momentos. La buena noticia es q los 95 trabajadores a salvo.." (With regret, I inform you that the gas platform Aban Pearl sank a few moments ago. The good news is that the 95 workers are safe).

In a statement issued somewhat later Venzuela's Minister Energy and Petroleum and PDVSA President Rafael Ramirez filled in more details of the loss of the rig, a 1977-built Aker H-3, owned by a subsidiary of India's Aban Offshore that was operating in the Caribbean off Venezuela's Sucre state.

According to Mr. Ramirez, 11:23 p.m, there was a problem with the rig's floatation system (pontoons) that produced a list of10 degrees. An inspection of the rig's four columns detected a massive influx of water.

PDVSA immediately evacuated 95 workers who were transferred to the drill ship Petro Arabia Discover to ensure safekeeping and physical integrity. The captain and two engineers remained on board. They activated the necessary mechanisms and valves and the well was sealed.

The captain and the two naval engineers were evacuated when the list reached 45 degrees and the collapse of the structure appeared imminent.

In parallel, PDVSA activated its Contingency Plan for the state of Sucre and surrounding areas, with the support of the armed forces.

PDVSA has begun an investigations to determine the exact causes of the incident.


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