US government launches investigations into rig explosion, fire

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Apr. 27 -- The US government made its first major moves on Apr. 27 in response to the Apr. 20 explosion and fire on the Transocean Ltd. Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible rig in the Gulf of Mexico as the Departments of Interior and Homeland Security launched a joint investigation. The US House Energy and Commerce Committee, meanwhile, began its own inquiry.

DOI Secretary Ken Salazar and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano outlined the next steps in the investigation already under way by DOI’s US Minerals Management Service and the US Coast Guard, which share jurisdiction. They signed orders that formally convene the joint investigation and outline each agency’s roles and responsibilities related to its expertise.

“As we continue to work with our federal, state, local, and private sector partners to respond to this ongoing incident, we must also effectively determine and address its causes,” Napolitano said, adding, “Secretary Salazar and I share [US President Barack H. Obama's] commitment to devoting every available resource to a comprehensive and thorough investigation.”

Salazar noted, “We will remain focused on providing every resource we can to support the massive response effort underway at the Deepwater Horizon, but we are also aggressively and quickly investigating what happened and what can be done to prevent this type of incident in the future.”

They said the joint investigation will have the power to issue subpoenas, hold public hearings, call witnesses, and take other necessary steps to determine what caused an explosion and fire that left 11 workers missing and presumed dead, 3 critically injured, and an ongoing crude oil spill that the responsible party, BP Exploration & Production, and federal agencies are working to contain and clean up.

Subsequent meeting
Salazar and Napolitano said they were scheduled to meet later in the day with Carol M. Browner, Obama’s special coordinator for energy, environmental, and global climate change policy; White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett; USCG Commandant Admiral Thad Allen; Deputy Interior Secretary David J. Hayes, and senior executives from BP, including Chief Executive Tony Hayward and BP America Inc. Pres. LaMar McKay.

Meanwhile, US House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) sent letters to McKay and to Steven Newman, president and chief executive of Transocean Ltd., the offshore drilling contractor that owned Deepwater Horizon, requesting information about response plans for any accidental release of oil and gas at the site.

“The cause of the explosion…is still unknown, but the cost in human life has been large and the environmental consequences appear to be growing daily,” Waxman and Stupak said in their letter. The companies are trying to contain the spill with techniques that have never been used at these ocean depths, they added. Waxman and Stupak asked the executives to supply the information by May 14.

Their request came a day after three US Senate Democrats opposed to additional oil and gas activity on the US Outer Continental Shelf sought a joint hearing of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on US offshore oil and gas safety and environmental practices overall.

“This may be the worst disaster in recent years, but it’s certainly not an isolated incident,” said Bill Nelson of Florida and Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez of New Jersey in their letter to the committees’ chairmen and ranking minority members. “Before the explosion…, [MMS] reported 509 fires resulting in at least 2 fatalities and 12 serious injuries on rigs in the Gulf of Mexico since 2006.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

Related Articles

County decision in Washington state stalls Shell’s Bakken rail plans

02/24/2015 A Skagit County Hearing Examiner in Mount Vernon, Wash., halted Royal Dutch Shell PLC’s plans to move Bakken crude oil by rail to the company’s Ana...

AER sets new seismic monitoring rules for Duvernay in the Fox Creek area

02/23/2015 The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) announced seismic monitoring and reporting requirements for companies using hydraulic fracturing in the Duvernay...

BOEM publishes second final SEIS for 2008 Chukchi Sea lease sale

02/23/2015 The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management published a fresh supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for a Chukchi Sea federal oil and gas...

BLM decision clears way for first NPRA federal oil production

02/23/2015 The US Bureau of Land Management issued a record of decision (ROD) for the proposed Greater Mooses Tooth One project (GMT1), which cleared the way ...

Watching Government: Letting states take charge

02/23/2015 The US Bureau of Land Management takes an average 227 days to process an application to drill for oil and gas on onshore federal land it oversees. ...

US House vote sends Keystone XL approval bill to Obama's desk

02/23/2015 The US House of Representatives voted by 270 to 152 to pass S. 1, which would deem the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline approved more than 6...

TransCanada challenges EPA's comments on Keystone XL SEIS

02/23/2015 TransCanada Corp. responded critically to the Feb. 2 comment letter from the US Environmental Protection Agency on the US Department of State's fin...

DOI proposes Arctic-specific drilling regulations for Alaska OCS

02/20/2015 The US Department of the Interior proposed regulations to ensure that oil and gas exploration on the US Arctic Continental Shelf occur safely and r...

Oil, gas infrastructure investments essential, House panel told

02/20/2015 Investments in oil and gas transportation and storage should move ahead because they are essential in continuing the US economic recovery and North...
White Papers

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by

7 Steps to Improve Oil & Gas Asset Decommissioning

Global competition and volatile markets are creating a challenging business climate for project based ...
Sponsored by

The impact of aging infrastructure in process manufacturing industries

Process manufacturing companies in the oil and gas, utilities, chemicals and natural resource industri...
Sponsored by

What is System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis?

This paper will explain some of the fundamentals of System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis and demonstrate...
Available Webcasts


Prevention, Detection and Mitigation of pipeline leaks in the modern world

When Thu, Apr 30, 2015

Preventing, detecting and mitigating leaks or commodity releases from pipelines are a top priority for all pipeline companies. This presentation will look at various aspects related to preventing, detecting and mitigating pipeline commodity releases from a generic and conceptual point of view, while at the same time look at the variety of offerings available from Schneider Electric to meet some of the requirements associated with pipeline integrity management. 

register:WEBCAST



On Demand

Global LNG: Adjusting to New Realities

Fri, Mar 20, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s March 20, 2015, webcast will look at how global LNG trade will be affected over the next 12-24 months by falling crude oil prices and changing patterns and pressures of demand. Will US LNG production play a role in balancing markets? Or will it add to a growing global oversupply of LNG for markets remote from easier natural gas supply? Will new buyers with marginal credit, smaller requirements, or great need for flexibility begin to look attractive to suppliers? How will high-cost, mega-projects in Australia respond to new construction cost trends?

register:WEBCAST


US Midstream at a Crossroads

Fri, Mar 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Mar. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on US midstream companies at an inflection point in their development in response to more than 6 years shale oil and gas production growth. Major infrastructure—gas plants, gathering systems, and takeaway pipelines—have been built. Major fractionation hubs have expanded. Given the radically changed pricing environment since mid-2014, where do processors go from here? What is the fate of large projects caught in mid-development? How to producers and processors cooperate to ensure a sustainable and profitable future? This event will serve to set the discussion table for the annual GPA Convention in San Antonio, Apr. 13-16, 2015.

This event is sponsored by Leidos Engineering.

register:WEBCAST


The Future of US Refining

Fri, Feb 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Feb. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on the future of US refining as various forces this year conspire to pull the industry in different directions. Lower oil prices generally reduce feedstock costs, but they have also lowered refiners’ returns, as 2015 begins with refined products priced at lows not seen in years. If lower per-barrel crude prices dampen production of lighter crudes among shale plays, what will happen to refiners’ plans to export more barrels of lighter crudes? And as always, refiners will be affected by government regulations, particularly those that suppress demand, increase costs, or limit access to markets or supply.

register:WEBCAST


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected