Unsafe welding caused a 2012 deadly oil platform explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a report released by Texas-based Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations, LLC. The November 16 Gulf explosion and fire, occurring on an oil production platform operated by Black Elk Energy off of the Grand Isle, Louisiana coast, resulted in the deaths of three workers and injuries to several others.
After the deadly explosion, Black Elk retained ABSG Consulting to perform a third-party investigation and report its findings. Black Elk releases ABSG’s findings August 21, 2013, the same day two workers and spouses filed a $180 million federal lawsuit naming Black Elk among the defendants.
In its report, ABSG stated that Grand Isle Shipyard Inc., under contract with Black Elk for construction work on the oil platform, used subcontractors on the job against a contract agreement. Welders, who the report stated failed to follow safety procedures, were among subcontractors employed by DNR Offshore and Crewing Services.
According to the report, the Filipino offshore oil workers welded a flange on open piping that led to an oil tank with flammable vapors. Due to failure to isolate the piping and make it safe for welding, vapors ignited and reached the oil tank and two connecting tanks within seconds, resulting in the explosion and fire.
ABSG reported that Grand Isle Shipyard’s use of subcontractors without notifying Black Elk contributed to the explosion. The failure by Grand Isle and DNR Offshore employees to adequately follow safe welding practices and stop work when unsafe conditions existed were among other causes of the oil platform explosion, according to the report.