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Houston drilling company reprimanded after deadly explosion

On Nov. 16, an explosion and subsequent fire took place on an oil platform owned by Houston-based Black Elk Energy in the Gulf of Mexico near the southern tip of Louisiana. So far, three people have died as a result of the offshore drilling accident and several others were injured.

In late November, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said that the offshore drilling company has "repeatedly failed to operate in a manner that is consistent with federal regulations."

BSEE cited another incident in October 2011, during which six workers were injured. The year before, Black Elk was reportedly cited with $307,000 in fines after other safety violations. BSEE warned that Black Elk could lose its authorization to operate its offshore drilling if it doesn't quickly clean up its act.

BSEE ordered Black Elk to complete a performance improvement plan by mid-December, and outlined several steps that the company must take to get its operation up to regulation.

At this point, the exact cause of the latest explosion and fire is unknown, but a torch was reportedly in use at the time the accident occurred on the platform. BSEE ordered Black Elk to halt all "hot work", or work that can perform sparks or a flame, until it has complied with the safety demands.

Luckily, the drilling platform involved in the November explosion was not producing oil at the time, or it could have had devastating effects much like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. Of course, the recent incident was just as devastating for the families who lost loved ones.

It is highly possible that Black Elk could face wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits resulting from the November drilling accident. Hopefully, the company chooses to comply with BSEE's orders so additional accidents can be prevented.

Source: SF Gate, "Agency: Company needs to improve offshore safety," Kevin McGill, Nov. 21, 2012

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