Leaky gas pipeline blamed for ‘eye of fire’ in Gulf of Mexico

A leak in an underwater gas pipe was responsible for a swirling “eye of fire” that burned in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, according to Mexico’s state oil company.

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The circular inferno drew comparisons to Mordor from “The Lord of the Rings,” The New York Times reported. Some people on social media called the blaze a “ring of fire,” a tribute to singer Johnny Cash’s 1963 country hit.

Chris Robbins, senior manager for science initiatives at the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy, said the blaze was disturbing.

“The footage is pretty alarming: it looks like the gates of hell are opening up,” Robbins told the Times.

The fire formed at 5:15 a.m. after a 12-inch pipeline leaked, according to a statement from Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), Mexico’s state-owned oil monopoly, the Times reported.

Pemex officials said there were no injuries in the offshore Ku-Maloob-Zaap field in the Bay of Campeche., NBC News reported. The leak occurred about 150 yards from a drilling platform, according to the network.

Video footage showed ships spraying water onto the flames. The fire was finally extinguished at 10:45 a.m. and valves connected to the pipeline were shut off, according to a statement from the company.

Pemex said it has opened an investigation, CNN reported.

Angel Carrizales, head of Mexico’s oil safety regulator ASEA, tweeted that the incident “did not generate any spill,” according to Reuters.

The fire was “attended to and controlled by Pemex personnel in accordance with their protocols for emergency responses,” Carrizales wrote in a post in Spanish, according to the Times.

Ku Maloob Zaap is Pemex’s largest producer of crude oil, Reuters reported. The oil field accounts for more than 40% of its nearly 1.7 million barrels of daily output.

Robbins said Pemex should investigate whether other infrastructures were compromised, adding that researchers should be allowed to explore the area to assess any damage to marine life.

“This appears to have been snuffed out pretty quickly, but I do think it raises those questions,” Robbins told the Times. “As long as we’re drilling for oil and natural gas, these kind of accidents, unfortunately, are going to continue to occur.”