Eighteen months after an oil field explosion that killed five workers, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board has released its final report: it concludes that the deadly incident was the result of “significant lapses in good safety practices.”
In a press release, an interim executive for the CSB Kristen Kulinowski wrote, “For over 14 hours, there was a dangerous condition building at this well. The lack of effective safety management at this well resulted in a needless catastrophe.”
In examining the cause of the oil field explosion, the independent, nonregulatory agency’s investigative panel determined that there were several different things that went wrong at the site. Their list included a failure of preventive barriers, the insufficiency of the alarm process and system, and an overall lack of regulations that identify the specific needs of onshore oil and gas well drilling operations.
Oil Field Explosion Was Deadliest Since Shale Drilling Began
The oil field explosion that took place in January 2018 has been called the deadliest since shale-drilling became a major source of production ten years ago. It occurred at the Pryor Trust gas well in Pittsburgh County, Oklahoma, where Patterson UTI Energy Inc. was drilling natural gas for Red Mountain Energy, an Oklahoma-based company.
In analyzing the various elements that contributed to the deaths, the Safety Board indicated that both of the protective barriers that were in place during drilling operations failed: the first barrier was hydrostatic pressure in the well and the second was “human detection of gas flowing into or expanding in the well and activation of the rig’s blowout preventer.” per the release. The board members concluded that the primary barrier failed as a result of “unplanned underbalanced drilling and tripping operations allowed a large quantity of gas to enter the well,” and “flow-checks” not being performed.
They also cited a lack of planning, skills, training and appropriate procedures among other factors, and said that there was a failure “to maintain an effective alarm system” that would have helped workers “become aware of hazardous conditions, like gas entering the well.” They concluded that “As a result, the workers had little knowledge of the impending disaster.”