The Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM) Wednesday issued the results of a nearly year-long investigation into the cause of a September 2010 fire aboard a Mariner Energy Inc. oil and natural gas platform that forced its crew to evacuate.
A BOEM accident investigation panel concluded that the fire was caused by the collapse of a fire tube located inside the platform's heater-treater -- a nearly 30-year-old piece of equipment, which uses heat from a fire tube as well as chemicals and electricity to separate oily water emulsions into oil and water. The fire occurred approximately a month before Houston-based Apache Corp. merged with Mariner Energy (see Daily GPI, Nov. 11, 2010; Sept. 3, 2010).
The accident team said the fire tube had been weakened over time by several factors, including heat, corrosion and pitting. Moreover, the investigators found that after the platform lost primary power due to the fire, the emergency generator failed to start and supply power to the firewater pump, leaving the 13-member crew without a system to fight the fire. As a result, investigators said, the crew was forced to evacuate the platform but was safely rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard.
The BOEM panel recommended that several "Incidents of Non-Compliance" be issued to Mariner Energy, which may be used as the basis for future civil penalties, the agency said. The agency said it would consider the panel's recommendations before taking any further action in the case.
"The report underscores the need for offshore operators to maintain their equipment consistent with existing standards, to protect the safety of personnel working onboard and to protect the environment," said BOEM Director Michael Bromwich.
The Mariner Vermilion 380 platform was located 100 miles south of Vermilion Bay, LA. It served seven natural gas and oil wells that were producing 9.2 MMcf/d of gas and 1,400 b/d of oil and condensate prior to the fire.
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