A federal investigation is underway after two people were killed and one person was injured Sunday morning during a routine training exercise at Royal Dutch Shell plc's Auger Tension Leg Platform (TLP) in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico.
A Shell employee and a contractor for oilfield services firm Danos died in the accident, which occurred about 214 miles south of New Orleans during a safety exercise of the lifeboat launch and retrieval capabilities. Another Shell worker was treated at an area hospital and released.
The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) have launched an investigation. Shell also plans to conduct an internal investigation, spokesperson Cynthia Babski told NGI.
“Shell is fully cooperating with federal authorities as an investigation begins into an incident at the Shell Auger TLP in which two fatalities and one non-life-threatening injury were sustained,” Babski said.
“Shell representatives have informed family members of those involved and are providing support...In the over 40 years that Shell has operated in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico we have strived, above all, to ensure our people go home safely to their loved ones. It’s devastating when they do not. We deeply regret this loss of life within our Shell family and community.”
The TLP was not shut down and there was no impact to the environment, according to Babski.
The Auger TLP began producing in 2014 from the Cardamom deepwater discovery in Garden Banks. The field is able to produce up to 50,000 boe/d.
The tragic incident is the third fatal accident on U.S. offshore platforms in the past two months, according to the BSEE. In early June BSEE Regional Director Lars Herbst established panels to investigate the previous two incidents.
The first investigation is focusing on a man-overboard/missing person incident that occurred at Eugene Island Block 331, Platform B on the Renaissance Offshore LLC platform about 170 miles southwest of New Orleans. The second probe is focusing on a fatality at Chevron Corp.’s Green Canyon Block 205, Genesis Platform A about 150 miles southwest of New Orleans.
“The safety of workers must be of the utmost priority for offshore operators,” said Herbst. Both of the prior incidents “involved workers falling through platform decks to a lower elevation or to the water’s surface. We are issuing a safety alert to the industry with recommendations to reduce the likelihood of similar incidents in the future.”
A safety alert is a tool used by BSEE to inform the offshore oil and gas industry of the circumstances surrounding a potential safety issue. It also contains recommendations that help operators avoid potential similar incidents.
The panels are to issue reports on their findings regarding the causes and make recommendations on how to strengthen existing safety measures once the investigations are completed.
“These panel Investigations are critical in ensuring BSEE determines the cause, or causes, of the incidents and develops recommendations for the offshore energy industry,” Herbst said.
BSEE's National Investigations Program is administered by its Safety and Incident Investigations Division in Washington, D.C. The panel investigations are an integral tool for improving both safety and environmental protection.