Common Causes of Oil Rig Explosions – Pipeline Blowouts
Crude or refined petroleum products are transported from one place to another by pipelines. There are concerns over the safety of the pipelines that contain highly flammable materials such as oil or natural gas. Dangerous conditions occur when a pipeline or oil rig fails. Pipelines are typically made from large tubes made of steel or plastic. The tubes are usually buried in the ground rather than running over it.
Most of the tubes used for natural gas materials are carbon steel. Although the materials are designed to carry these products, they can become damaged. Weak areas may develop allowing pressure from the materials to burst the pipe. This is known as a pipeline blowout.
A well-drilling blowout is also known as a gusher. Today, oil wells are pressurized to control the flow of oil. However, if the pressure control equipment malfunctions, the result is the uncontrolled release of oil or gas. This situation is extremely dangerous, and just one spark could cause a serious or deadly fire or explosion.
Blowouts may occur in several different locations including:
These occur when a drill string is forced out of the well. It may be ejected with such force that it may damage the rig. The material may include oil or any other materials such as natural gas, sand and rocks, fluid used for drilling, and mud. This can be sparked by the friction of rocks as they are ejected causing a fire.
This happens when pressure is not controlled properly. Typically, blowout preventers are in place to safeguard against geologically produced pressure. Sometimes, however, the devices fail, or an imbalance occurs that causes pressure to be released. Those who operate these machines must be properly trained in emergency response in case of a failure.
These happen when fluids flow into zones that are of a lower pressure inside the well. Over-pressurization could cause fluid to be let out and cause spills and other problems.
The most serious problem associated with blowouts is the potential for fires or explosions. The oil or other products leaving the pipeline are under quite a bit of pressure and therefore are difficult to control. An explosion could result in serious injuries and deaths of oil rig workers. The built-up pressure could cause an oil spill that is extensive and hard to stop.
Because blowouts can cause forceful explosions or fires, an incident of this type could impact a great many people on the rig. Burn injuries can occur, some of which can be extremely severe or life-threatening. Workers may also experience impact wounds such as lacerations and contusions from a large explosion. Head, back, and neck trauma are common types of injuries that may occur. Burns are another concern. These injuries can be serious and require emergency medical attention from a trauma center located on shore.
Oil Rig Safety
There are some safety measures in place to control the risk of blowouts and to reduce the damage that happens if they occur. Regulations are in place which requires companies that operate in the deep seas of the Gulf of Mexico to submit an Oil Spill Response Plan along with a Containment Demonstration Plan. These must be provided before drilling operations are allowed to start.
The plan requires that the company secure all workers aboard the rig and then evaluate the situation. The process would typically involve the use of remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) to determine the condition of the underwater equipment. Debris is then removed to allow capping of the wellhead. The company must work with the U.S. Coast Guard and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, BSEE, who are supposed to oversee cleanup operations.
Companies are required to have safety procedures in place to prevent these types of accidents from occurring. Proper maintenance and inspection of equipment must be done on a regular basis. Employees have to be adequately trained to operate equipment as well as to respond to a blowout. If an accident does happen, the company needs to react quickly to save lives and provide medical treatment as needed. If the company fails in any of these areas they could be negligent. Those injured in such accidents have rights under the Jones Act and can bring legal action to get the compensation they deserve.