Lighting strike, pipeline leak combine to set off underwater fireball

International

The PEMEX logotype on the tower of the drilling tower of La Muralla IV exploration oil rig, operated by Mexican company “Grupo R” and working for Mexico’s state-owned oil company PEMEX, in the Gulf of Mexico on August 30, 2013. The semisubmersible platform is able to drill to a depth of 10.000 meters in an enviroment such as the Gulf of Mexico. (OMAR TORRES/AFP via Getty Images)

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s state-owned oil company says a bizarre chain of events, including a lightning storm and a gas pipeline leak, set off a strange subaquatic fireball seen last week in the Gulf of Mexico.

Petroleos Mexicanos said Monday that an intense storm of rain and lightning forced the company to shut off pumping stations serving the offshore rig near where the fire occurred.

Simultaneously, it said, the leak at an underwater pipeline allowed natural gas to build up on the ocean floor and when it rose to the surface, it was probably ignited by a lightning bolt.

Pemex said Monday that no crude oil had spilled.

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