BSEE: Black Elk failed to supervise contractors in 2012 platform fire

Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC failed to properly supervise its contractors, contributing to a series of events and decisions associated with a Nov. 16, 2012, explosion and fire on Black Elk West Delta Block 32 Platform E in the Gulf of Mexico about 17 miles off Grand Isle, La., the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said.

Three people died in the blast (OGJ Online, Nov. 16, 2012).

The incident resulted from numerous decisions, actions, and failures related to welding and construction by Black Elk and three contractors, said an investigation panel of US Coast Guard and BSEE representatives. The panel concluded BSEE safety regulations were not followed by Black Elk, Wood Group Production Service Network, Grand Isle Shipyard, and Compass Engineering Consultants.

“These failures reflect a disregard for the safety of workers on the platform and are the antithesis of the type of safety culture that should guide decision-making in all offshore oil and gas operations,” said BSEE Director Brian Salerno.

Black Elk was the lease holder and operator of the D, A, and E platforms on West Delta Block 32, said the Nov. 4 investigation panel’s report.

The panel recommended all operators of manned offshore facilities conduct a “safety stand down” in which operators ensure their operations are safe before Dec. 31. A safety stand down uses real world examples to illustrate consequences that can result from the failure to consider safety.

Salerno also requested that the American Petroleum Institute assist BSEE in improving safety. He asked API to help develop safer standards for “hot work” such as welding.

Previously, an 8-month investigation by ABSG Consulting found that, while production was shut in, workers welded on piping connected to a tank containing crude oil and flammable oil vapors without following Black Elk’s safety practices (OGJ Online, Aug. 21, 2013).

The piping leading to the tank had not been isolated and made safe for welding activities as required by Black Elk safe work practices. The flammable vapors in the piping ignited and within seconds reached the first oil tank and two connected tanks.

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