The event captured the attention of environmental activists, scientists, and everyday people worldwide. Videos and images of the ring of fire, which was compared to molten lava bubbling in the middle of the ocean, swept across the internet and news stations worldwide. 

Ocean Fire in the Gulf of Mexico

On the weekend of July 4th, 2021, a burst 12-inch pipeline in the Gulf of Mexico, owned by Pemex, ignited an ocean fire. The pipeline that runs underneath the Campeche Sound leaked into the ocean, and that leak sparked a huge ring of fire that burst to life in the middle of the ocean. 

The fire was extinguished a few hours later, according to Pemex, whose flagship oil platform, Ku Maloob Zap, was nearby. The company closed nearby pipelines in an effort to prevent the event from worsening. Through the use of nitrogen, workers were able to get the fire under control and completely put it out. Luckily, no one was injured in the five hours the fire raged. Conditions were restored to normal around 10:00 AM the same day.

Video of the Gulf of Mexico fire in 2021


How Was the Fire Extinguished? 

Pemex released a statement following the event, stating that the ocean fire was extinguished through the use of nitrogen. By using this unusual procedure, scientists believe the company was able to choke off any excess oxygen and effectively smother the fire. 

Luckily, due to the proximity of equipment, workers, and the nitrogen gas itself, the company was able to put out the fire relatively quickly (in around five hours). Some reporters have noted that if the location had been less convenient, then the fire could’ve lasted for far longer. This would’ve resulted in a severe decline in air quality and threatened the health and well-being of the workers on site. 

Can the Ocean Catch on Fire? 

In 2021, the world got its answer to this usual question. After the Pemex pipeline leaked, the world watched as a ring of flaming waves raged next to an oil platform. While speaking about the fire, a professor of organic geochemistry at Macquarie University in Australia noted that the fire was: 

Caused by methane and probably other wet gas components (ethane, propane, etc.) igniting at the ocean surface after leaking from the pipeline

Source: CNET

He went on to describe how enough natural gas has to exist in one place to sustain the fire, something that is incredibly rare. Interestingly, the professor concluded that the fire itself likely helped the situation. He described it as “consum[ing] some of the leaking hydrocarbons,” according to CNET. 

Environmental Impact of Ocean Fires 

Luckily ocean fires are rare, but even a single event such as that which occurred in the Gulf of Mexico is damaging. Scientists are still unsure about what specific damage the fire in July 2021 caused, but there has been some speculation. 

It was clear at the time of the event that large marine life, like fish, mammals, and even sea birds, stayed away from the site. But, scientists agree that any plankton in the water was destroyed by the raging flames. They also noted that the area, due to the location of the pipeline in general, way already suffering from pollution and environmental disruption.

Many environmental groups spoke out after seeing and analyzing the footage from the Gulf of Mexico. The general consensus among activists and scientists focused on the event as yet another sign that the world is far too dependent on fossil fuels.

FAQs 

Is the ocean on fire real?

Yes, the images from the ocean on fire in the Gulf of Mexico are real, despite their otherworldly appearance. The event was resolved within five hours through the use of nitrogen gas.

What happened in the Gulf of Mexico in 2021?

In 2021 in the Gulf of Mexico, a pipeline burst, leaking oil into the surrounding water. This resulted in an unusual ocean fire on the water’s surface that, some suggested, resembled molten lava bubbling on the surface of the water.

Why is there a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico?

Annually, scientists have stated, a “dead zone” appears within the Gulf of Mexico, specifically from waste washing out from the Mississippi River. The excess nutrients cause an overgrowth of algae which then die and deplete oxygen throughout the area.

What is the largest dead zone in the world?

The largest dead zone in the world is in the Arabian Sea. It covers around 63,700 square miles of the Gulf of Oman. The second largest is in the Gulf of Mexico (around 6,000 square miles).

What ocean was on fire?

The water in the Gulf of Mexico was on fire in July 2021. Images and videos of the event (caused by a gas leak) spread around the world, via Twitter and various news agencies, triggering many environmental activists to again critique the world’s dependence on fossil fuels.