HOUSTON (Dow Jones)–U.S. regulators said Wednesday that a fire that took place aboard a Mariner Energy Inc. oil and gas platform last September was caused by the failure of a nearly 30-year-old piece of equipment.
In addition, the emergency generator failed to start and couldn’t supply power to the firewater pump, forcing the 13-person crew to abandon the platform and jump into the water, approximately 102 miles off the Louisiana coast. The crew were later rescued. The fire aboard Mariner’s Vermillion 380-A platform came amid an increased focus on offshore safety in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon explosion in April 2010, which killed 11 and unleashed the worst accidental offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
In a statement, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement said that a fire tube collapsed inside the platform’s “heater-treater,” a piece of equipment designed to separate oily water emulsions into oil and water. The fire tube progressively weakened over many years due to such factors as corrosion and heat. “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,” the agency said.
The BOEMRE panel that investigated the incident recommended that the agency issue non-compliance citations to Mariner Energy Inc., which has since been acquired by Apache Corp. (APA). Those citations could be used as the basis for future civil penalties, BOEMRE said.
Apache didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
-By Angel Gonzalez, Dow Jones Newswires
The full report can be download at http://www.boemre.gov/ooc/pdfs/Panel_VR380AMAY23FullReport.pdf.