Although working on oil and gas rigs comes with some amount of risk, employers have a duty to keep these work environments reasonably safe for the employees and contractors they hire. Whether that means performing regular safety inspections, providing adequate training, or making sure that employees can take rest breaks, even a small oversight in safety procedures can be a fatal accident waiting to happen.
The platforms and rigs that dot the Gulf of Mexico and other waters around the world are notoriously risky workplaces for all the workers who contribute to their function and operation, and reports of accidents—both large and small—are all too common and close to home. Here are some examples of extreme accidents from the past decade, as well as information about getting help with your Jones Act rights if you are hurt while working on a rig or platform.
Pemex Abkatun-Permanente platform
On April 1, 2015, the Abkatun-Permanente oil platform exploded in the Bay of Campeche. The platform was owned by Pemex and part of the Abkatun-Pol-Chuc offshore field. During the explosion, “fireballs” lit up the sky in the Gulf of Mexico, and “sheets of flame” made fighting the blaze difficult for responders. Four workers were killed in the explosion, and two were seriously injured. Many others suffered more minor injuries, and more than 300 workers were evacuated from the platform. The explosion was kicked off by a fire in the dewatering and pumping area.
The explosion followed a 2013 explosion at Pemex’s headquarters in Mexico City and a 2007 fire on the state-run oil company’s Kab 121 rig in Campeche Sound.
Fieldwood Energy Echo platform
On November 21, 2014, an explosion was reported on a platform in the Gulf of Mexico. The accident took the life of one contractor, seriously injured one, and left other workers with injuries. The workers were on Fieldwood Energy’s Echo Platform, which was located in the West Delta field off the coast of New Orleans. The platform was not in production at the time of the accident, and Fieldwood said that no pollution was released by the explosion.
Hercules 265 natural gas rig
On July 24, 2013, the Hercules 265 natural gas drilling rig exploded, caught fire, and partially collapsed after a well blowout. All 44 workers aboard the drilling platform were safely rescued without injury, but the fire blazed for days about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast. The Hercules 265 was a jack up rig used for drilling or producing at shallow water levels. The rig, which was owned by Hercules Offshore and operated by Walter Oil & Gas Corporation, continued burning until crews could stop the natural gas leak that fed the flames. The accident also released a sheen of oil onto the surface of the water, which soon disappeared. Experts say that natural gas accidents do not pose a large threat to the environment like accidents involving oil.
The Hercules natural gas rig fire was investigated by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and other parties. Officials said it was the worst platform explosion since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident.
VB Attorneys has represented a number of Hercules employees injured on jack up rigs that are just like the Hercules 265. These cases involved safety issues that arose during crew changes.
BP Deepwater Horizon rig
On April 20, 2010, a natural gas drilling rig exploded, burned, and collapsed in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast. The incident began with an eruption of the Macondo well below the Deepwater Horizon, and the well blowout led to violent explosions. Eleven workers lost their lives in the tragedy, and dozens more were injured by the resulting shrapnel, smoke, fire, and heat.
The Deepwater Horizon explosion led to one of the most catastrophic oil spills in history, and a complaint against BP Exploration & Production settled for $14.3 million, including Clean Water Act penalties and damage to natural resources. Millions of gallons of oil leaked into the Gulf for 87 days following the incident.