Federal Agency Blames Louisiana Offshore Platform Accident on Defective Equipment, Generator Failure

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement has completed its investigation into the fire that broke out on a Louisiana offshore oil platform in December 2010. The agency blames a combination of factors, including corroded equipment and equipment failure, for the incident. In December 2010, a fire broke out on the Mariner Energy Vermillion 380-A offshore platform, which had about 13 people, on board. The men were forced to jump into the water to save their lives. Fortunately, they were rescued by the Coast Guard, and no loss of life was reported. Now, an official investigation says that a piece of equipment inside the "heater treater" which is designed to separate oil-water emulsions, collapsed. The failure occurred because of years of exposure to heat and corrosion. Besides, there were other factors contributing to the fire. For instance, the crewmembers on the offshore platform could not use the fire water pump because the generator had failed. According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, it may soon issue noncompliance citations to Mariner Energy Inc. The company could even be faced with civil penalties. Mariner Energy has since been taken over by Apache Corporation. According to Apache, it has cooperated with investigators, and will continue repair and restoration work on the platform according to the agency's guidelines. To maritime lawyers, the Louisiana Mariner Energy offshore platform fire had come as a reminder of the continued safety lapses in the offshore oil and gas drilling sector. This incident occurred just a few months after the BP oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, which had already pointed to a deteriorating safety culture in the industry.

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