bsee logoA well blew out, a rig is abandoned, and a fire raged uncontrollably in the Gulf of Mexico for an entire day this week.

For many, it was a stark reminder of the dangers involved in offshore drilling and in particular, the Deepwater Horizon disaster, an epic tragedy that unfolded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Since then, the oil and gas industry has encountered enormous public scrutiny, and government oversight by an organization called the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).  According to a statement on their website, “BSEE works to promote safety, protect the environment, and conserve resources offshore through vigorous regulatory oversight and enforcement.”

But who oversees BSEE to make sure they are doing an adequate job?

The public.

This recent incident has made it plainly clear however that BSEE has very little interest in informing the public of what they are up to, or the incidents that are happening in the gulf.  In fact, the fire at the Hercules 265 rig has been out for the past 5 or 6 hours, but their website still hasn’t been updated and even after repeated phone calls and emails, BSEE never gave us an update via email or via phone.

We got the news from our anonymous eyes and ears spread throughout the Gulf of Mexico.

Even more ridiculous is the fact their latest posted update from yesterday goes to a 404 error.

In speaking with some folks is the mainstream media, it seems clear that BSEE was also heavily influential in any of the statements that were sent out from Walter Oil and Gas, even though they had contracted FTI Consulting to support them with this PR nightmare.

C Y A

BSEE undoubtably took dozens of images and video of the burning well yesterday… but they only released one.  Why?

Images of burning rigs invokes a LOT of scrutiny not only of those who operate the rigs, but also those who regulate them.  BSEE clearly didn’t want the scrutiny so they kept the industry media in the dark and gave them only what they wanted to tell them.  Everything was vetted.

Even images shot by the U.S. Coast Guard, which is an agency under the Department of Homeland Security, could not be released until approved by BSEE, an organization under the Department of the Interior.

Images of a burning rig doesn’t pose a security threat, but censoring these images and video makes you wonder who is really working for who.

If we can’t trust the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement to be completely open to the media, how do we know that they doing their jobs any better than what was done during the days of the Minerals Management Service?

Deceptive statements

Yesterday, BSEE noted that one of the vessels was spraying a “water curtain” at the burning rig.  “A water curtain’s purpose is not to extinguish the fire, but to provide heat protection to the rig,” noted BSEE.

That’s interesting because our sources have told us that the ships couldn’t come within 100 yards of the rig due to the overwhelming heat being generated by the blaze.  How do you throw a water curtain from 100 yards away?

You don’t.  BSEE was trying to tell us that they were doing something, but in reality, nothing useful at all was being done, or could be done.

From my perspective, BSEE is failing in their role as an offshore oil and gas industry regulator; not because this well blew out, but because they aren’t supporting those who are asking the tough questions and bringing the real oversight to this industry.

Perhaps in their next update, BSEE could answer these questions, which we sent to the well operator, Walter Oil and Gas:

1) Was the blowout preventer actuated?
2) What sort of BOP ram system did it have?  How many rams?  What type of rams?
3) Was there a tool joint inside the BOP when the rams were actuated?
4) What make/model BOP was it?
5) What is the Total depth of the blown out well?
6) How much gas is flowing from the well?
7) What options does Wild Well Control have to put out the fire and cap the well?

On 26 July we received the following images from an anonymous gCaptain contributor of the well fire from July 24th:
hercules 265 rig fire

hercules 265 rig fire

Any news, images, or video of the Hercules Rig Fire can be sent to tips@gCaptain.com

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  • Oceaninfantry

    Are those the “tough questions” you were talking about?

    Rob, you were in the industry so you should know that those little Bethlehem jackups are outfitted with 3-ram BOPs. That is to say two doubles and a single. Most common configuration is pipe rams top and bottom with a BSR in the middle. Nothing earth-shattering here.

    Tool joint across a ram? The on duty driller knows and I guarantee Hercules isn’t letting any of their hands talk.

    BOP model? Check the BOEM Data Center. That info is on the permit.

    It would take a few weeks to determine flow rate once equipment was in place. Mother nature didn’t give us that much time.

    I’m going to go have lunch now.

    • Tom Raod

      That is, unless you watched a crew boat tow the lifeboats into Fourchon… All of Fourchon knew what happened before it ever showed up on gCaptain.

      Afterall, how do you think they heard about it?

  • Chris D.

    I have mixed feelings about this.

    On one hand, I understand the thirst for information in our internet, sound-byte culture–and the desire to create content and analysis based on snippets of information that trickles in.

    On the other hand, you don’t blast out a safety alert mere hours after a serious incident has occurred. You don’t do this because there’s a process that needs to be adhered in order to do a proper investigation. I have little doubt the parties involved are going through that process now, and until they’re finished, BSEE probably doesn’t have a lot to say. Furthermore, the American news media has devolved into one of the most despicable, dishonest institutions in our nation’s history. Why go out of your way to provide them with countless pictures/video of a burning jack-up rig in the GoM knowing they’re going to plaster it all over the 6:00 news with all the accompanying “context” a 29 year-old, liberal j-school grad can provide?

    Maybe it was the royal baby in the UK, or maybe it was “Carlos Danger” in NYC, but I’m absolutely shocked that the major media and the anti-industry Administration it serves didn’t seize upon this event and use it as a hammer. Because it damn sure could have, and I was damn sure expecting them to.

    Maybe—just maybe—the management of information exhibited by BSEE was a smart move. Let them, not the media, wield the hammer.They can’t do that until all the facts are in and the investigations are complete.

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