Oil & Gas: Fire in the Desert

OIL & GAS

For the past four weeks, the bleakness of the French Sahara 450 miles south of Algiers has been illuminated night and day by a billowing, 450-ft. torch of flame. Visible for 90 miles and roaring like a dozen jetliners at takeoff, the fire is consuming the riches of the recently discovered Gassi Touil natural-gas field at the staggering rate of 30 million cu. ft. a day—enough gas to meet the average daily requirements of Tucson, Ariz.

Touched off when static electricity ignited gas escaping from a blown valve at a well...

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