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The Major Offshore Oil Rig Disasters

Drilling for oil is an incredibly dangerous job, with more than 1,500 men and women killed on oil rigs between 2008 and 2017 alone. Many of these fatalities took place in large-scale accidents. This article discusses 5 of the worst oil rig disasters in recent history.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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How Many Oil Rig Disasters Have There Been?

Between 2007 and 2018, 33 offshore oil rigs exploded in the United States, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). Luckily, offshore oil rig explosions are relatively rare, but when they do occur, they have catastrophic consequences, including a high number of fatalities and catastrophic injuries. Five of the major recent offshore oil rig explosions are discussed below.

Oil Rig Accident

1. Deepwater Horizon

The explosion of Deepwater Horizon is one of the most notable offshore oil rig explosions, and it resulted in the largest oil spill in history. A sudden burst of natural gas caused the deadly explosion on April 20, 2010, which resulted in the death of 11 rig workers and the spilling of four million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over the next 87 days, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

BP spent more than $14 billion on clean-up activities between 2010 and 2015. The company paid out additional claims through a special trust fund and settled cases brought by several surrounding states that were damaged due to the spillage. The estimated cost of the Deepwater Horizon disaster is estimated to exceed $65 billion.

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2. C.P. Baker Drilling Barge

On June 29, 1964, the crew of the C.P. Baker began drilling its twenty-second well since being constructed in the Gulf of Mexico, 170 km south of New Orleans. The crew was preparing to run the 20 conductor and blow-out preventers (BOPs) when, at around 3:00 AM, the water around the vessel began to bubble, boil, and eventually geyser up with some force between the hulls of the C.P Baker.

Water entered the vessel and electric power was soon lost. An explosion occurred about 5 minutes after the blowout occurred. The explosion and fire were described as encompassing the whole vessel and covered an area up to 100 feet around the vessel. Of the 43 crew on board, 8 were confirmed dead with 13 missing, presumed dead and 22 injured.

3. Piper Alpha

Piper Alpha was an oil platform located in the North Sea approximately 120 miles northeast of Aberdeen, Scotland. It was operated by Occidental Petroleum (Caledonia) Limited and began production in 1976, initially as an oil-only platform but later converted to add gas production.

Piper Alpha exploded and sank on July 6, 1988, killing 165 of the men on board and 2 rescue workers after their rescue vessel, which had been trapped in the debris and immobilized, was destroyed by the disintegrating rig. 61 workers escaped and survived. Thirty bodies were never recovered.

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4. Fieldwood Energy Echo

An explosion occurred on the Echo Platform, operated since July 2014 by Fieldwood Energy L.L.C. of Houston, killing one and injuring at least three on November 20, 2014. The platform is located at West Delta 105 in the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 12 miles off the coast of New Orleans, where Houston-based Apache Corp. drilled three wells in 2001. The platform sits in about 220 feet of water and is considered a shallow-water rig.

Three injured workers, one of whom reportedly suffered serious injuries, were being treated at an onshore medical facility, according to the operator. The platform was not in production at the time of the explosion, and had not been producing for over a week while the facility was undergoing “routine maintenance operations.”

5. Quinton Gas Rig Explosion

Five oilfield workers were killed and several men were injured when a drilling rig exploded on Jan. 22, 2018, at an oil/gas lease near Quinton in northeastern Pittsburg County, Oklahoma. It was the deadliest oil field mishap since the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010.

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