Cobalt International Energy L.P.
Cobalt International Energy L.P. is a relatively new firm engaged in oil exploration and production. Able to compete with the largest energy firms, it is built on innovative technology and an experienced workforce, operating in deepwater regions in major production locations in the Gulf of Mexico and off the West Africa coast. Based in Houston, Texas, the company was established in 2005.
Company operations include:
- Subsalt and pre-salt exploration: Discovery of oil below salt layers in a position different from their original. Their position relative to nearby rocks contributes to hydrocarbon accumulations, and a focus on seismic imaging in places like the Gulf of Mexico. Oil accumulation beneath younger salt layers is sought out as well.
- Deepwater drilling: Deepwater wells in the Gulf include North Platte #4 ST01, which is 37,743 feet deep. It is thus far the deepest well in the region. The company works with drilling engineers, geophysicists, petrophysicists, and professionals in the fields of safety and the environment.
- Subsea engineering: Tools that endure corrosion and temperature and pressure extremes are employed. Subsea production systems are integrated with floating production facilities run by third-parties. Subsea fields are run using owner-supplied equipment and subsea tie-back interfaces.
In the Gulf of Mexico, Cobalt has lease interests in more than 130 deepwater blocks, operating 85 percent of its leased properties. It also holds a 40 percent working interest in two blocks off the Angola coast. These cover a combined area of 2.4 million acres. It also has a partial interest in a 2.2-million-acre petroleum reserve in Gabon, off West Africa.
Cobalt and Safety
Although younger than other offshore oil companies, Cobalt has seen its share of controversy, from environmental threats to safety issues. The firm has moved from exploration to development with the help of subcontractors to build staff. Leasing has also been used to buy rigs and equipment. As a result, the company has found a way to grow and develop efficiently.
Its Health, Safety, Security, and Environmental Policy focuses on compliance with applicable safety and environmental laws and the roles that all employees and contractors play. It also concentrates on contractor relationships, technical practices, and safe work environments as well as auditing and reporting. Other aspects of the policy include stopping work if there appears to be any kind of imminent risk, whether it’s to people, equipment, or the environment.
However, a sound policy doesn’t prevent all accidents. One technical failure involved a malfunctioned flowline valve. It was supposed to open during a drilling process, but instead, it caused oil to spill into the Gulf. Workers had mistakenly believed the flowline was in the proper open position.
In July 2013, a Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement Accident Investigation Report detailed an injury to an employee aboard the Ensco 8503 rig, operated by Cobalt. He had been stricken by a stand of drill pipe on his side. The crew had been working to relocate the equipment, and operations were halted when the accident happened. An examination at a hospital revealed he had a concussion and right clavicle fracture, and underwent surgery several days later. Probable causes listed for the accident included lack of attention, poor body placement/judgment, and work instructions not showing where personnel shouldn’t be when the equipment in question, a bridge racker, was in use.
Offshore Accident and Injury Risks
Fractures and head injuries are not uncommon when personnel are involved in offshore accidents. Other frequently seen injuries include neck, back, shoulder, and limb injuries. Burns and electrocutions are possible as well, given the exposure to flammable gases and compounds and potentially corroded or damaged electrical equipment. Chemical exposure is a risk for crews of offshore rigs, especially when toxic chemicals are stored as cargo, or used in the drilling process. These are often flammable as well.
Slips, trips, and falls are a hazard for anyone working anywhere on a rig. One slippery surface can send a worker tumbling to the floor or down a flight of stairs or ladder; it can even send them overboard into rough or cold seas, leading to drowning within minutes. Sometimes injuries are minor, but anything that leaves one out of work for any amount of time, and in need of recovery, may be caused by negligence and entitle them to compensation under the maritime law.