Archive for December, 2022

photo courtesy of Lars Herbst

BOE an independent, unsponsored blog that is dedicated to offshore safety, pollution prevention, energy production, effective regulation, and responsible energy policy. If you would like to submit a post, leave a comment to that effect at any time.

Happy New Year! Bud

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Did they write this news release with a straight face? Almost a shutout (could still be if the only bid is rejected). And they need 3 hours to process the results! 😉

That said, good for Hilcorp! They have a vision, and I hope they are successful.

As directed by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022, BOEM held Cook Inlet OCS Oil & Gas Lease Sale 258 on Friday, Dec. 30. 

The reading of the bids was conducted via livestream. The lease sale is now concluded. One bid was received on one block. The bid, in the amount of $63,983, was submitted by Hilcorp Alaska LLC.

Final sale results are currently being processed and will be posted to this page by 1 p.m. Alaska Time.

Following today’s sale, there will be a 90-day evaluation process to ensure the public receives fair market value before a lease is awarded, and a Department of Justice review of antitrust considerations. If a lease is awarded it will be posted to BOEM’s website when the review process is completed.


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  • This was the second crash for the operator (Rotorcraft) in two weeks, its second fatal for the year, and the third in the Gulf of Mexico since October.
  •  On December 15, a Rotorcraft Leasing Bell 206L-4 with three aboard crashed while taking off from a platform 35 miles south of Terrebonne Bay, Louisiana. In that accident, one of the helicopter’s skids caught under the helipad’s perimeter railing, and the aircraft fell into the water below. (We have concerns that yesterday’s incident may have had a similar cause.)
  • On October 26, a Westwind Helicopters Bell 407 with three aboard crashed into the Gulf 25 miles south of Morgan City, Louisiana after the pilot apparently experienced an in-flight medical emergency and told his front seat passenger he “was not going to make it” and then slumped over the controls. The front-seat passenger then attempted to gain control of the helicopter prior to the water impact. After several hours, both passengers were rescued with serious injuries, but the pilot died. (This is why I never liked single pilot aircraft.)
  •  Another of the company’s Bell 407s crashed on January 14 near Houma, Louisiana, killing both occupants. A witness to the accident said the helicopter appeared to dive nose-down into terrain. To date, investigators in that accident have not discovered any mechanical or structural failure that would account for that crash. 

Get to work HSAC, NTSB, BSEE, USCG, FAA, and all others who are involved with offshore helicopter safety.

Not a word about this tragedy on the Rotorcraft, Walter Oil & Gas, or BSEE websites, and no public statements can be found. At a minimum, one would have expected condolences to the families and a commitment to find out what happened and prevent recurrences.

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From Lars Herbst:

  • Tragically, the pilot and 3 passengers are assumed dead.
  • Aircraft reported as Bell 407, a very common smaller aircraft used in the GOM
  • Crashed on departure; apparently hit the helideck before tumbling into the Gulf
  • Second Rotorcraft helicopter to go down in the Gulf in three months

The next Helicopter Safety Advisory Conference (HSAC) meeting, scheduled for January 18-19 in Houston, is now urgent.

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Walter platform with helicopter debris in foreground

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Not uncommon.

A group of more than 7,000 redhead ducks was seen floating at the Mackinac Straits during the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count on Dec. 21, 2022. According to the Straits Area Audubon Society, motorists on the Mackinac Bridge sometimes confuse these large groups of migrating ducks for oil slicks on the water. | Photo by Steve Baker, courtesy Straits Area Audubon Society; mlive.com article

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More “free” oil was withdrawn from the SPR, which has sunk to the lowest level (375.1 million bbls) since Christmas 1983. More rational oil and gas leasing policies would have been a far better gift, particularly for our children and grandchildren.

The “pilot” refill program is scheduled to begin in February. We’ll see how that goes.

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Carbon-Zero US LLC of Dallas (a Cox Oil affiliate) has applied for up to $12 million in U.S. Department of Energy funds to develop a pilot sequestration hub in offshore storage fields about 20 miles from Grand Isle, according to officials from Cox Operating LLC, the Dallas operator that owns some of the storage fields.

Cox Operating LLC will “repurpose facilities and equipment” for the carbon storage project, according to a news release.

The Advocate

Should this company be authorized to repurpose Gulf of Mexico facilities for carbon sequestration?

  • Per BSEE Incident of Non-Compliance (INC) data for 2022, Cox had more component shut-in INCs (132) than any other company. Cox was second to the Fieldwood companies in the number of warning and facility shut-in INCs, and in the total number of INCs. 48% of the Cox INCs required either a component or facility shut-in.
  • Cox had an INC/facility-inspection ratio of 0.77, nearly 50% higher than the GoM average of 0.53.
  • Per the posted BSEE district investigation reports for 2022, Cox was responsible for 9 of the 30 incidents that were significant enough to require investigation. That is more than twice as many as any other company (next highest was 4).
  • The incidents included 3 serious injuries, 2 fires, a large gas leak, and oil spills of 114, 129, and 660 gallons. Per the posted reports, only one other company had an oil spill of >1 bbl. (Note: Only spills of > 1 bbl are routinely investigated by BSEE. One bbl = 42 gallons.)
  • While INCs were issued for only 3 of the 9 Cox incidents, a review of the reports suggests that INCs should have been issued for at least 4 of the other incidents.
  • Cox operates 375 platforms with installation dates as early as 1949. 134 of their platforms are > 50 years old. Only 66 were installed in the last 20 years and only 6 in the last 10 years (most recent December 2014). How will the carbon sequestration plans affect their massive decommissioning obligations?
  • Many of the Cox platforms were assigned by predecessor lessees. Those predecessors can only be held responsible for the decommissioning of facilities they installed, not for more recent wells or platforms and not for facilities that are repurposed for carbon sequestration.

Other more generic issues should be addressed before DOE awards funds for offshore sequestration projects.

Also, as noted in the discussion of Exxon’s 94 Sale 257 oil and gas leases, a competitively issued alternate use RUE is required (30 CFR § 585.1007) before sequestration operations may be conducted on an oil and gas lease.

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