Eleven oil workers are still missing after a massive explosion and fire late Tuesday night on an oil rig off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico. The rig was under contract to BP Exploration and Production (BPEP).
Working In These Times has determined that BPEP has a history of safety violations, according to public records on file with the Minerals Management Service (MMS), the division of the federal Department of the Interior that oversees offshore drilling.
Penalties assessed to BPEP during the past decade include:
- $41,000 for a “loss of well control.” MMS found that BPEP “failed to verify employees were trained to competently perform the assigned well control duties.”
- $190,000 for an improperly installed fire diverter system. The lapse was discovered in the wake of a fire that damaged property and the environment.
- $80,000 for bypassing relays for the Pressure Safety High/Low on four producing wells.
- $70,000 for low pressure in the fire water system
The Tana Exploration Company, LLC was fined $190,000 after BPEP employees, working as contractors, bypassed the safety valves on a Tana rig. Investigators found that the rig failed to shut down in an emergency because the safety devices had been bypassed.
As a result, “[t]he pipeline experienced overpressure and the flange gasket ruptured allowing gas/condensate to escape,” according to MMS records.
The Wall Street Journal reports that BPEP’s parent company was fined $87 million for failing to make agreed upon safety upgrades to a Texas refinery after an explosion and fire that killed 15 people.
It is still unclear who was responsible for the April 20 explosion.
*This post originally appeared in Working in These Times on April 22, 2010. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Lindsay Beyerstein, a former InTheseTimes.com political reporter, is a freelance investigative journalist in New York City. Her work has appeared in Salon.com, Slate.com, AlterNet.org, The New York Press, The Washington Independent, RH Reality Check and other news outlets. Beyerstein writes a daily foreign affairs bulletin for the UN Foundation’s UN Dispatch website and covers healthcare for the Media Consortium. She is the winner of a 2009 Project Censored Award. She blogs at Majikthise.