Black Elk Victims' Families Reach Settlement


By MarEx 2016-06-30 20:15:48

A trial combining 10 lawsuits arising from the 2012 Black Elk explosion in the Gulf of Mexico has reached a settlement.

The incident occurred during welding operations on the West Delta 32 oil production platform operated by Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations offshore from Louisiana.

Three people were killed and several others were injured.

Hydrocarbon vapors ignited while a worker was welding on the incoming pipe segment to a wet oil tank. The ignition started a chain reaction that caused the wet oil tank and two connected dry oil tanks to explode. 

These explosions caused the three tanks to separate at their bases, launching the wet oil tank and the first dry oil tank into the Gulf of Mexico and blowing the second dry oil tank into the air. The second dry oil tank then struck the platform crane and landed back on the platform. 

The hydrocarbons in all three of the tanks were released onto the platform and into the Gulf of Mexico, and the platform subsequently ignited, starting a fire on the platform.

Afterwards, the U.S. Department of Justice charged Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations and Grand Isle Shipyards with three counts of involuntary manslaughter, eight counts of failing to follow proper safety practices under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and one count of violating the Clean Water Act.

Investigators from the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement identified a number of specific safety failures including: no hazard identification; conducting “hot work” without taking required safety precautions; failure to isolate hydrocarbons inside an oil tank; ineffective communication among contractors and a climate in which workers feared retaliation if they raised safety concerns.

Details of the settlement have not been disclosed.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement report on the incident is available here.