Bankrupt company sentenced for platform explosion

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West Delta Fire 32

Posted on August 31, 2017 7:38 PM by

The maritime executive

Texas-based Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations was sentenced for the 2012 explosion on the West Delta 32 production platform that left three dead and several injured.

The company was convicted of eight serious breaches of the Outer Continental Shelf Land Act (OCSLA) and one misdemeanor count of violating the Clean Water Act. Black Elk was fined $ 4.2 million. However, due to the bankruptcy of the business, the $ 4.2 million will be an unsecured general claim against the estate of the business.

This case relates to the recent conviction of Wood Group PSN in the Western District of Louisiana for its role in platform operations. Wood Group PSN was ordered to pay $ 7 million for falsely reporting over several years that staff performed safety inspections on offshore facilities in the Gulf of Mexico and $ 1.8 million for negligent dumping of oil in the Gulf of Mexico in violation of the Clean Water Act after the explosion.

Incident details

The company undertook platform repairs which included “hot work”. Hot work on an oil production facility is a hazardous activity that can cause injury or death. Title 30 of the Code of Federal Regulations requires that written authorization, commonly referred to as a “hot work permit”, be issued by the welding supervisor or designated responsible person prior to the commencement of any hot work on a rig. of production. At most, a hot work permit is valid for 12 hours. Once a hot work permit expires, all precautionary steps must be completed before a new hot work permit is issued.

As of November 8, 2012, Christopher Srubar, co-accused and employee of Wood Group PSN and manager of West Delta 32, issued hot work permits for construction work related to the West Delta 32 projects. However, Srubar ceased to issue hot work permits and organize safety meetings at all levels and instead delegated the authorization to the operator Wood Group PSN “C”. Neither Srubar nor Operator “C” performed a daily pre-work inspection with the construction crew, made up of Grand Isle Shipyards (GIS), nor did they designate a fire watch for the areas. hot work.

On November 15, 2012, hot work began on the platform’s Automatic Custody Transfer Unit (LACT) with the acquaintance of co-defendants Don Moss and Curtis Dantin. Moss and Dantin did not ask Srubar if he had carried out a security check of the area. In addition, they did not carry out a pre-work inspection and did not warn the SIG teams to weld the sump piping in stages.

Instead, Dantin had part of the crew start welding the sump piping for the LACT unit upgrade. The single hot work permit issued by Operator “C” for November 16 did not indicate that the LACT unit or sump piping were safe areas for hot work.

Workers began cutting the piping from the sump leading to the wet oil tank, causing fluid to spill from the piping. At around 9:00 a.m., hydrocarbon vapors escaping from the wet oil tank ignited, causing a series of explosions in the three oil tanks on the platform. The fire and explosions resulted in the deaths of SIG employees, Avelino Tajonera, Elroy Caporal and Jerome Malagapo. Other workers were seriously burned and physically injured.

No more legal actions

Black Elk admitted that his employees and agents were negligent in the way they planned and executed the hot work on the West Delta 32 rig. Co-accused GIS faces manslaughter charges , and Dantin, Srubar and Moss face criminal violations of the Clean Water Act in the Eastern District of Louisiana. OCSLA’s charges against GIS, Moss, Srubar and Dantin were dismissed by the district court and are pending appeal by the government to the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.


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