Posts Tagged ‘Walter Oil and Gas’

4/17/2023 NTSB data base search results:

Preliminary report

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Presentations from the January 2023 HSAC meeting have now been posted. None of the presentations addresses the tragic crash in the Gulf of Mexico on 29 December. This is understandable given the ongoing investigation.

Attached is an update from the Helideck Committee which also addresses wind farm issues.

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The attached NTSB report includes details on the timing of the accident, observations from personnel remaining on the platform, condition of the helipad, nature and location of the debris, and the recovery of the fuselage and separated tail boom. The engine control unit (ECU) was recovered and sent to an NTSB lab for data extraction.

Link to previous posts on the crash.

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Offshore gas has important environmental advantages, particularly nonassociated gas-well gas (GWG). While the GoM production chart (below) is not pretty, there are signs that gas production may have bottomed and is slowly rising. This is largely due to growth in oil-well gas (OWG) associated with deepwater oil production.

A successful offshore program requires a mix of strategies, and it is encouraging that companies are still pursuing natural gas on the GoM shelf. The second chart (below), based on BOEM data, shows 2022 YTD (probably through Oct.) GWG production for the 11 companies that (1) produced more GWG than OWG and (2) produced more than 1 BCF of GWG.

Interestingly, 100% of the gas produced by Contango, Samchully, and Helis in 2022 was from gas wells. Contrast this with bp, the third largest GoM gas producer. None of bp’s gas production was from gas wells.

One has to wonder about the extent to which deepwater gas reservoirs are being stranded due to the less favorable economics. Preventing such resource losses was once an important regulatory consideration given the conservation mandate in the OCS Lands Act and the importance of maximizing the public benefit. However, current policy, as expressed in the proposed 5 year leasing plan, is to phase out offshore production rather than sustain it. This is difficult to reconcile.

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David Scarborough, Island Operating Co. employee who died in the crash.
  • The bodies of the 4 victims have been recovered.
  • The 3 offshore workers were employees of Island Operating Co., a production contractor. The pilot worked for Rotorcraft Leasing Company, the owner of the Bell 406 helicopter that crashed. The platform is owned by Walter Oil and Gas, the operating company.
  • A preliminary FAA report confirms that the helicopter crashed onto the helideck during takeoff, breaking apart and falling into the Gulf.
  • 4 passengers had been dropped off at the platform before the fatal takeoff. Presumably there were witnesses to the incident.
  • According to the FAA report, the platform was located at West Delta Block 106. Per the BOEM platform data base, the platform was installed in 1994, is in 252′ of water, and is continuously manned.
  • Per the BSEE INC data base, the platform had not been cited for any violations since 2016.

Lacy Scarborough, wife of victim David Scarborough, is pregnant. Tragically, the couple lost their first child in an accidental drowning in March. David was heading home for the holidays after completing his 2 week shift on the platform. He had worked offshore for 8 years. Per Lacy, David’s last message was that he was taking off and would be home soon.

The only other victim who has been identified is Tim Graham of Quitman, Mississippi.

I trust that the NTSB will conduct a timely and thorough investigation, and hope they consider offshore helideck oversight, both in terms of industry programs and government regulation. The most recent Coast Guard – BSEE MOA for fixed platforms added to helideck regulatory uncertainty by assigning decks and fuel handling to BSEE and railings and perimeter netting to the Coast Guard. This is the antithesis of holistic, systems-based regulation.

More on the crash: ominous message, update #3

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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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Lars Herbst analyzed GoM permitting and drilling activity from 2011 to 2021. His data and observations are summarized below.

  • Shelf (shallow water) exploratory drilling is at historic low levels with only a single exploration well drilled in both 2020 and 2021. That trend appears to have continued into 2022, as only one shelf exploration well (drilled by Contango) has been spudded YTD.
  • 2021 also saw a significant drop in deep water development wells.
  • Over the time period examined, deep water development is led by deepwater exploration. The same cannot be said for the development of shallow water leases where prospects are more mature and data are more available.
  • The only shelf well drilled in 2021 (Walter Oil and Gas) was in relatively deeper water (566 feet). That well was drilled with a deepwater semisubmersible (the Valaris 8503). This is the shallowest water depth for a GoM semisubmersible drilling operation in recent history. The rig had a modified DP/moored configuration with explosive disconnects on the mooring lines so the rig could move off location if needed during an emergency disconnect scenario. That mooring disconnect would also let the rig evade hurricanes without the need for anchor handling vessels. 
  • The 2012 spike in deepwater permit approvals is the result of the Macondo drilling moratorium backlog.
GOM OCS New Drilling Well Permits and Well Spuds 2011-2021
YearNew Shallow Water Drilling Well Permits ApprovedShallow Water Expl.; New Well SpudsShallow Water Dev.; New Well SpudsNew Deep Water Drilling; Well Permits ApprovedDeep Water Exp.;
New Well Spuds
Deep Water Dev.;
New Well Spuds
Note: Only includes new wells not sidetrack or bypass boreholes.

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While 93% of GoM oil and 76% of the natural gas is now produced on deepwater leases, successful operations on the shallow waters of the shelf continue 75 years after the first OCS platform was installed. Three of our compliance honor roll companies, Arena, Cantium, and Walter, have successful shelf operations. Arena and Walter are top ten gas producers and top twenty oil producers. Cantium also has solid production numbers and along with Arena is the leading 2022 development well driller on the shelf (see chart below). Other shelf operators like Cox Operating LLC are significant shelf producers.

Without much hype, shelf operators continue to find and extract oil and gas from beneath the shallow waters of the GoM. The 1700 shelf platforms that remain provide energy for our economy and important hardbottom substrate for marine life. Keep it going! Only 25 more years until the 100th anniversary! 😀

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