Posts Tagged ‘fatalities’

Among the more important workstreams of the International Regulators’ Forum, a group of offshore safety regulators, are country performance data which provide a means of measuring and comparing offshore safety performance internationally. As we near the midpoint of 2023, the last data posted are for 2020. This lag makes it difficult to assess current trends and risks.

In addition to more timely updates, there are significant holes in the IRF data sets. For example, per IRF guidelines fatalities associated with illnesses or “natural causes” are not counted; nor are helicopter incidents that are not in the immediate vicinity of an offshore facility. Also, incidents associated with geophysical surveys, many pipeline segments, and (inexplicably) subsea wells and structures are excluded (see excerpts below).

Excerpts from IRF Performance Measurement Guidelines:

  • Exclude Geophysical and Geotechnical surveying and support vessel operations not directly associated with activities at an Offshore Installation
  • Exclude horizontal components associated with incoming and outgoing pipelines and flowlines beyond either the first flange at the seabed near an Offshore Installation or a 500 meter radius, whichever is less.
  • Exclude helicopter operations at or near an Offshore Installation
  • Exclude mobile or floating Offshore Installations being transported to or from the offshore location.
  • Exclude subsea wells and structures.
  • Do not include Fatalities and Injuries that are self-inflicted.
  • Do not include Occupational Illnesses in Fatality or Injury counts.
  • Do not include fatalities that are due to natural causes.

Perhaps the IRF can consider these and other data collection and publication issues at their next conference. Because voluntary incident reporting schemes have always suffered from incomplete or selective reporting, the regulators have to drive incident data collection and transparency.

Parallel US concerns about offshore incident data: After a review of BSEE fatality data provided in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, WWNO reported that “nearly half of known offshore worker fatalities in the Gulf of Mexico from 2005 to 2019 didn’t fit BSEE’s reporting criteria.” They noted that 24 of the 83 known offshore worker fatalities during that period were classified as “non-occupational.” (As previously posted, the rash of “natural cause” deaths (12) at Gulf of Mexico facilities in 2021 and 2022 is particularly troubling and warrants further investigation.)

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BSEE has posted the 2021 incident data for US OCS oil and gas operations. While the 13 month publishing lag is disappointing, the spreadsheet (below the table at this link and attached at the end of this post) appears to be comprehensive and complete.

Of the 8 fatalities in 2021, 6 are classified as “non-occupational” and are thus not included in the 2021 fatality count (see table below).

The 2 occupational fatalities are the result of falling metal plates on a drilling rig and the release of casing pressure on a production platform. These fatalities are still being investigated.

The 6 non-occupational fatalities on OCS facilities also merit further attention. While historical data on health-related OCS fatalities are not readily available, 6 such fatalities seems high relative to past experience, particularly given that the total number of hours worked has declined by more than 50% since 2011. Are these and other health related questions being considered?

  • Were covid or covid related health issues a factor?
  • Are health screening programs sufficient, particularly for contractors? Contractors are 80% of the workforce but accounted for 100% of the 2021 fatalities?
  • Are offshore medical care and evacuation capabilities sufficient?

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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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Wall Street Journal: U.S. Wants More Oil From Canada but Not a New Pipeline to Bring It


This WSJ report, if accurate, reflects the mindset that you can increase oil production on demand when absolutely necessary, and avoid committing to longer term oil and gas supplies. The goal of such thinking is to address supply crises without alienating the uncompromising climate ultras. You suspend lease sales, deny new pipelines, and demonize oil and gas and the people who produce it. When supplies tighten and prices spike, you tap the strategic reserve, appeal to OPEC, talk to Venezuela and Iran, and ask Canada to ship more oil in rail cars or trucks (but no new pipelines please!). .

Below is a pie chart constructed using data from a 2018 DOT report to Congress. For logistical and economic reasons, pipelines are overwhelmingly the crude oil transport method of choice. Rail cars and trucks are called on where there are no pipeline options.

data from 2018 DOT report

Looking at the systems, one would assume that pipelines have safety and environmental advantages. Loading and unloading hundreds of tanks would seem to be inviting spills, although most would presumably be small. The DOT data bear this out. On a volume transported basis, spill incidents occurred nearly 15 times more frequently for rail cars and trucks than they did for pipelines.

For pipeline(s), an incident occurred approximately once every 720 million gallons of crude oil shipped. For rail, an incident occurred approximately once every 50 million gallons of crude oil shipped. For truck(s), an incident occurred approximately once every 55 million gallons of crude oil shipped.

Looking at the percentage spilled, pipelines also had a significant (7.6 times) advantage over rail, but only a slight advantage over trucks.

Volume of Crude Oil Shipped and Spilled by Pipeline, Rail, and Truck, 2007-2016

volume shipped (k gal)1,298,630,088
volume spilled (k gal)13,161
% spilled0.0010%
volume shipped (k gal)23,052,960
volume spilled (k gal)1,751
% spilled0.0076%
volume shipped (k gal)47,894,868
volume spilled (k gal)521
% spilled0.0011%

Because fatalities or hospitalizations were extremely rare, DOT chose not to normalize those data. There were a total of 3 fatalities associated with both pipeline and truck shipments. While no fatalities were associated with rail shipments, DOT noted that 47 deaths resulted from a crude oil derailment in Lac Megantic, Quebec in 2013. BOE further reminds readers that this train was transporting Bakken crude from North Dakota to a refinery in St. John, New Brunswick.

The bottom line is that you have to plan ahead to satisfy future supply needs. This is particularly true for the offshore sector where the lead times are longer, but the production volumes relative to the number of wells and facilities are higher (a good thing). The need for oil and gas is not going away, nor are threats to energy security. There are plenty of people in the U.S. Department of the Interior who understand this. Empower them to safely expedite leasing, exploration, and development!

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This Nigerian source is now reporting that there are 3 confirmed deaths, and 11 workers declared missing. No other sources are reporting casualties at this time.

The latest AFP report indicates that the fire has been extinguished.

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