BOEMRE: Heater-treater collapse caused Mariner platform fire

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, May 26 -- The collapse of a fire tube inside the heater-treater on Mariner Energy Inc.’s Vermilion 380-A platform caused a Sept. 2 fire on the platform 102 miles off Louisiana, the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement said on May 25.

It said its accident investigation panel found that the fire tube on the nearly 30-year-old piece of equipment had been weakened over time from heat, corrosion, pitting, and other factors. The heater-treater used heat from a fire tube as well as chemicals and electricity to separate oily emulsions into oil and water.

Investigators also found that after the platform lost primary power because of the fire, the emergency generator failed to start and supply power to the firewater pump, leaving the 13-member crew without a firewater system to aid them in trying to fight the fire, according to BOEMRE. Ultimately, the crew was forced to evacuate the platform, and all were later transported to safety, it said.

The investigation panel interviewed the platform’s crew, reviewed documentary and physical evidence, examined equipment onboard the platform, and consulted with an oil production platform and heater-treater expert, the US Department of the Interior agency said.

BOEMRE said its investigators recommended that Mariner be issued several incidents of noncompliance, which may be used as the basis of future civil penalties. The agency said it will now consider the panel’s recommendations before taking further action, and that production from the platform remains shut-in until BOEMRE personnel approve all safety and structural corrections.

BOEMRE noted that it has issued a safety alert to oil and gas operators to address the investigation’s findings as a way to inform the offshore industry of circumstances surrounding the accident and offer recommendations that help to prevent such an incident’s recurrence. It has posted the safety alert online at www.boemre.gov/safetyalerts/9.htm

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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