LONDON?A fire on a Caspian Sea oil rig that killed as many as 30 workers was still burning on Wednesday, over two months after a storm ruptured a gas line sparking the fire, according to the head of Azerbaijan's state oil company.
The worst accident in the history of Azerbaijan's oil industry, in which 11 workers are confirmed dead and 19 more are missing, has added to the woes of the petrostate already suffering from a historic decline in oil prices that has hammered revenues.
Some 60% of Socar's production flows through the oil platform. The shutdown is expected to result in the loss of 500,000 to 600,000 metric tons of oil output this year, or around 10,000 to 12,000 barrels a day, said Rovnag Abdullayev, the president of the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic, known as Socar.
"The situation there is stabilizing," Mr. Abdullayev told reporters on the sidelines of an oil conference in London. "Yesterday we shut down the penultimate well. We hope to extinguish the last well that is still burning in the next few days."
A repair team is standing by, and Socar is aiming to have the platform in operation again in the next three to four months, Mr. Abdullayev added.
Last month Standard & Poor's rating agency cut Azerbaijan's credit rating to junk and predicted its economy would contract this year for the first time in two decades.
The former Soviet republic south of Russia has been battling a currency crisis as oil prices have collapsed. It is seeking a $4 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, according to Russian news agency Interfax. Azerbaijan depends on oil and gas for over 90% of its exports.
Oil production peaked in Azerbaijan at just over 1 million barrels a day in 2009 and 2010 but has since fallen due to higher maintenanceat the fields and a lack of new barrels to replace more mature fields.
BP PLC is a major investor in Azerbaijan, where it operates the main offshore oil fields that produce the bulk of the country's oil production. BP has said there is no impact from the fire on operations at its offshore platforms.
OPEC said in its monthly oil-market report that it expects Azerbaijan's output to decline 40,000 barrels a day, or around 4.7%, this year to 820,000 barrels a day from 860,000 barrels a day last year.
The fire at the rig, known at Platform Number 10 on the Guneshli oil field, started Dec. 4 after a natural-gas pipeline was ruptured during a storm that lasted over a day and sent waves as high as 30 feet crashing against the rig, authorities said.
The fire at the rig, which is about 60 to 70 miles east of the capital Baku, then spread to some of the 28 oil and gas wells at the platform. Although production was quickly shut down, the fire continued to burn because of gas that remained in the system, Socar said.
The platform is a hub for oil from other Socar oil fields. The field, which produces mostly oil and some gas, has been in production since the 1970s and was rehabilitated in the 1990s.
In addition to fields offshore Azerbaijan, the Caspian Sea is home to many other oil and gas projects, such as the giant Kashagan oil field in Kazakhstan, which is run by a consortium of companies, including Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Exxon Mobil Corp, and due to come onstream in 2017, as well as producing oil fields in the sector off the coasts of Russia and Turkmenistan.