Posts Tagged ‘accidents’

Comprehensive and timely incident data are critical for risk assessments, preventing recurrences, training and safety management programs, assessing the performance of the industry and individual companies, and driving safety culture. The National Academies 2021 review of BSEE’s inspection program included a number of recommendations related to data management including this one:

Recommendation 2. To further its goal of increasing data transparency and facilitating its internal and external use, BSEE should invest in more advanced and creative data collection, analytic and visualization tools, and infrastructure; corresponding data management, analysis, and evaluation capabilities among its personnel; and an outward-facing, online data system that can be navigated with ease and kept current across all fields for the purpose of encouraging and facilitating safety analyses.

National Academies Report, 2021

Unfortunately, BSEE’s incident data are not updated and posted in a timely manner. As we approach September 2021, the 2020 incident statistics are still not publicly available. These incidents include at least one rig fatality that neither BSEE nor the Coast Guard announced at the time of occurrence one year ago today (8/23/2020) or subsequently. The only public information about this fatality is the following self-serving statement by the operator:

“This is a routine operation that was executed with no time pressure as the rig disconnection had been decided well in advance,” Total said.


A 37-year old man died, but according to the operator there is nothing to see here. This is not the type of statement you would expect from a company with a leading safety culture.

The keystone of BSEE’s primary mission, protecting workers and the environment, is timely incident information that is regularly reviewed and updated. Continuous improvements in safety are dependent on continuous improvements in data management and analysis. BSEE can do much better, as can other regulators, the offshore industry, and those of us who are interested and concerned observers.

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Phil Rae piece in Fuel Fix

  1. The well clearly had losses through the shoe during the initial displacement of the heavy spacer with seawater, immediately prior to the negative test.
  2. Allowing for, and accepting, losses of ~80 bbls during spacer displacement, explains ALL pressure and flow anomalies without the need to create or invoke undocumented and unsubstantiated valve closures or manipulations that contradict witness testimony of events. It also eliminates the need to adopt unrealistically-low pump efficiencies for the rig pumps, hypothetical washed-out tubing and ridiculously high viscosities for the drilling mud, in an effort to fit questionable computer models.
  3. Despite extensive examination by investigators and the publication of several reports, the fact that the well experienced losses, making it even more severely underbalanced than was planned, has been given little credence or has received little or no attention, despite several clear indications that this was the case. While this statement regarding losses may be self-evident, its significance on the outcome at Macondo merits closer examination since it explains many previous, apparently-contradictory aspects of the disaster.
  4. Under-displacement of heavyweight spacer, as a result of losses during displacement, caused U-tubing and partial evacuation of the kill line, the lower end of which was later refilled with heavyweight spacer, driven by pressure and flow from the formation. The vacuum, initially, and subsequent invasion of heavy fluid rendered the kill line useless for monitoring the well since the line was effectively blind to pressure changes in the well.
  5. While initial flow into the well was through the shoe, pressure above the casing hanger seal during the negative test was reduced to levels that could have allowed the casing to lift, compromising the seal and possibly also allowing flow from the external annulus.
  6. The well encountered further losses during the second displacement (to displace the riser), after completion of the negative test. These losses, which were perhaps as much as 200 bbls, effectively replaced heavy mud with sea water in the casing below the drill pipe. This further underbalanced the well to the point that it was being kept under control only by pumping friction pressure. As the pump rate was reduced prior to shut down for the sheen test, effectively reducing system backpressure, the now severely underbalanced well began to flow.

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Dauphin Island tarballs, May 2011

Cheryl’s update after reviewing the latest reports:

  • There is a USCG unified command specific to BP spill residue after storms.
  • The tarballs are not considered toxic, just an unattractive nuisance.
  • Tarball cleanup on Dauphin Island was halted on May 1 to protect nesting birds.
  • BP estimates a total Macondo spill volume of about 4 million bbl as opposed to the government estimate of 4.9 million bbl.
  • BP estimates that 850,000 barrels were captured, burned or skimmed off the water.
  • 1,260 people remain employed in spill cleanup as of [July 14, 2011], down from a peak of 48,200 a year ago

Articles of interest:


WALA New Orleans

Bloomberg Business Week 

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Very interesting findings for those interested in the fate of spilled oil:

The deep sea entrainment of water-soluble hydrocarbons has far-reaching implications for deep water oil spills. Our results demonstrate that most of the C1-C3 hydrocarbons and a significant fraction of water-soluble aromatic compounds were retained in the deep water column, whereas relatively insoluble petroleum components were predominantly transported to the sea surface or deposited on the seafloor, although the relative proportions are not known.

The resulting apportionments of hydrocarbon transfers to the water column and atmosphere are therefore very different for a deep water oil spill versus a sea-surface oil spill. During seasurface oil spills, highly water-soluble components such as BTEX, C3-benzenes, and naphthalene quickly volatilize and are rapidly lost to the atmosphere within hours to days, thereby limiting the extent of aqueous dissolution into the water column. In the case of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, however, gas and oil experienced a significant residence time in the water column with no opportunity for the release of volatile species to the atmosphere. Hence, water-soluble petroleum compounds dissolved into the water column to a much greater extent than is typically observed for surface spills.

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from Platts Oilgram News:

Representatives Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Rush Holt of New Jersey introduced the so-called No Free Inspections for Oil Companies Act (H.R. 2566) July 15, in reaction to House Republicans’ proposal for funding the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. About $35 million short of the Obama administration’s request, the GOP’s $154 million budget rejected new and more expensive fees on offshore operators. The administration wanted to ratchet up industry fees to $65 million a year, from $10 million, to pay for a tougher inspections regime.

The annual inspection fees debate, a budget season ritual for 20+ years, has picked up intensity and financial significance in the post-Macondo spotlight. However, discussions about regulatory philosophy and the fundamental program decisions that dictate inspection strategy are still absent. Safety and pollution prevention are the goals, not inspections. While inspections are an essential part of any safety regime, they are just one component of a comprehensive regulatory program. More inspections would not have prevented Macondo. Better standards, training, technology, and attention to prior incidents (most notably Montara) may have.

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14.07.2011 | On Wednesday 13 July, a fire broke out in the compressor area of Valhall PCP. Today the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) will send two representatives to Valhall to investigate the incident.

The fire, which was reported to the authorities yesterday afternoon, started at around 4.40 p.m. A standby vessel was deployed to put out the fire and at 6.45 p.m. it was confirmed that the fire had been extinguished. All personnel were evacuated and there were no injuries.


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BOE’s Cheryl Anderson picked up this AP report.  Helicopter accidents continue to be a leading cause of offshore casualties.

A helicopter carrying crew from an offshore drilling rig crashed into the sea off Myanmar, killing three people on board. Eight were rescued.

The aircraft was carrying staff of the Malaysian oil company Petronas from the Yetagun offshore gas field in the Andaman Sea.

The oil field is operated by Petronas Carigali of Malaysia, PTTEP of Thailand and Japan’s Nippon Oil company. Petronas also operates a cross-border gas pipeline to transport gas from Yetagun to Thailand.

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If someone had asked me a few years ago what the highest risk offshore system was, I certainly would not have said a fully cased well in the process of being suspended. Yet that was the scenario for both of the recent mega-incidents, Montara and Macondo.

I would have instead suggested that dynamic production risers were the highest risk offshore system. The combination of relatively new technology, movement,  fatigue potential, exposure in the splash zone, and continuous hydrocarbon flow poses risks that must be carefully managed.  That is why investigations of incidents like the Visund gas leak are so important. In that regard, PSA does an excellent job and prominently posts all of their reports so that we all may benefit. I recommend that you take a look at this one.

In connection with the planned shutdown on Visund on 9 April 2011, a hydrocarbon leak occurred from well A21’s 6” flexible riser UK-18-0009. The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) has carried out an investigation of certain aspects of the incident.

 We have identified three nonconformities within the areas of establishment and follow-up of preconditions for safe operation of dynamic risers, training and expertise and governing documentation.

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From the West Australian:

A new system to regulate the offshore gas and oil industry – a direct response to the 2009 Montara north of the Kimberley – has been approved by the Federal Parliament’s lower house.

Under the changes, the seven state and territory authorities will be replaced by a single Commonwealth body, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority.

It will regulate all safety issues from exploration to well decommissioning.

In the US, the jurisdictional conflicts (offshore) differ in that they typically involve multiple Federal regulators with overlapping jurisdiction and different priorities. Since most of the necessary streamlining would only involve Federal agencies, one would think that regulatory reform would be achievable, especially after a major blowout that killed eleven. Unfortunately, meaningful US reform appears to be highly unlikely.

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  1. Will Transocean be releasing any details on yesterday’s “water ingress?” Will the results of their internal investigation ever be made public? (We are still waiting for their report on the fatal crane incident last August offshore Nigeria.)
  2. Will an independent investigation be conducted? Will the authorities in Ghana participate?
  3. Did the damage that the Marianas incurred during Hurricane Ike (2008) or Tropical Storm Ida (2009) in any way contribute to yesterday’s apparent structural failure?
  4. When will we have an international system that ensures (a) prompt, independent, and complete investigations of all significant accidents, and (b) the timely release of findings?

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