First-hand account of oil rig disaster

Bart brings to our attention this transcript of a radio interview with a guy said to have been on the scene when the Gulf oil rig blew. He certainly sounds like a guy who knows what he’s talking about; you may get a bit bogged down in the technical details. But it’s there if you’re curious. An excerpt:

James: Well obviously, the gas blew the sea water out of the riser, once it displaced all of the sea water, the gas began to spill out on the deck and up through the center of the rig floor. The rig, you have to imagine a rectangle, about 400 feet by 300 feet, with the derrick and the rig floor sitting directly in the center. As this gas is now heavier than air, it starts to settle in different places. From that point, something ignited the gas, which would have caused the first major explosion.

Mark: Now, what might ignite the gas, do you know?

James: Any number of things, Mark. All rig floor equipment is what they consider intrinsically safe, meaning it cannot generate a spark, so that these types of accidents cannot occur. However, as much gas that came out as fast as it did, it would have spilled over the entire rig fairly rapidly, you know, within a minute. I would think that the entire rig would be enveloped in gas. Now a lot of this stuff, you can’t smell, you can’t taste it, it’s just there, and it’s heavier than oxygen. As it settled in, it could have made it to a space that wasn’t intrinsically safe. Something as simple as static electricity could have ignited the first explosion, which set off a series of explosions.

Mark: Alright, so what happened? You’re standing where? You’re sitting somewhere? What happened?

James: Well, I was in a location that was a pretty good ways from the initial blast. I wasn’t affected by the blast. I was able to make it out and get up forward where the life boats were. The PA system was still working. There was an announcement overhead that this was NOT a drill. Obviously, we have fire drills every single week to prepare for emergencies like this (fire and abandonment drills). Over the intercom came the order to report to life boats one and two, that this was not a drill, that there is a fire, and we proceeded that way.

Mark: So, the eleven men who died, were they friends of yours?

James: Yes sir, they were….

Bart says, “Suggest you read it and hopefully, we try to put the accident into proper perspective, not become another political event for the uninformed.”

5 thoughts on “First-hand account of oil rig disaster

  1. Brad

    FYI, Wally Altman had this response to Bart back on the previous thread where Bart brought it up:

    Thanks for the link Bart, that was a good read. However, it didn’t change my perspective on the incident and its implications for offshore drilling at all. Either someone screwed up, in which case we need to strengthen regulation and/or enforcement before drilling is allowed to continue; or else it was an unavoidable freak accident, in which case a serious conversation about the risks of offshore drilling, and whether we should even be doing it at all, is in order.

    In either case, a “political event” is appropriate and inevitable. Unlike many of the fabricated concerns people like to get themselves worked up about, this accident involves real issues in which the public has an interest.

  2. martin

    I have been all for more nuclear plants, not opposed to off shore drilling, but this makes me wonder if we still have the capacity to construct something which can operate safely. We still don’t even have mines down.

    Of course, the oil well is Haliburton at work …

  3. JS

    Great post. I passed this along to a few friends and they all remarked that it was the only thing of real substance that they’ve seen concerning this story.

  4. Phillip

    The interview concludes with this exchange:
    “And, what is the sense in shutting down every rig in the Gulf of Mexico in response to this?

    James: Absolutely senseless, whatsoever. This literally could very well be a once in a lifetime freak accident, or it could be negligence. That’s for other people to figure out. From my position, it just seems like every now and then, you can’t win against Mother Nature. She throws a curve ball that you are not prepared for.”

    Well, that makes it sound like this is something like the Icelandic volcano, or a tsunami after an earthquake. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Mother Nature does not create oil slicks of this magnitude by herself. It takes the presence of offshore oil rigs, placed there by humans.

    The physical insult to Mother Nature created by this catastrophe is bad enough. To compound that insult by blaming Mother Nature for this is ugly beyond compare.

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