Oil Rig Blowout Attorneys
Helping Those Victimized by Catastrophic Oil Blowouts
When an offshore oil rig is drilling, serious problems can occur if pressure is not adequately monitored, leading to pressure changes that can ultimately result in the rapid flowing of combustible hydrocarbons. If this flow is not controlled or stopped in a timely fashion, it can ignite and cause a blowout. It has been said that blowouts are the most tragic and expensive incidents in the upstream petroleum industry. They not only endanger the lives of those around the well, but they can also pose a monumental threat to the environment.
Well blowouts can occur at any point, such as the following:
- Well testing
- Well completion
- Workover activity
The oil and gas extracted in today's industry were first created and sealed under the earth's surface in a period that spanned over millions of years. The formation of these hydrocarbon products requires enormous pressure. So, when extracting oil or gas through drilling, the force behind these formations must be considered. Several key items must be in place to handle this pressure and avoid blowouts while safely extracting the oil or gas.
Workers must take steps such as correctly using surface cement and ensuring that adequate mud weight is being used to control the well to ensure a safe drilling process. Beyond that, the Blowout Preventer (BOP) needs to receive constant tests with regular drills.
Types of Blowouts
There are three main types of blowouts that occur:
- Surface Blowouts In some cases, the blowout can result in the ejection of the drill string entirely out of the well, which could result in an output of oil, sand, mud, rocks, natural gas, and more. The force behind this blowout is often enough to not only damage the vessel but also cause injuries to the crew aboard the rig. Also, surface blowouts can usually be set ablaze; for example, rocks ejected during the process could spark, or friction could generate heat. This ignition will not only harm crew but will also be difficult to extinguish, burning for extended periods.
- Subsea Blowouts Blowouts that occur in subsea wells are particularly dangerous because they occur on the seabed; these wells can range from 10 to 8,000 feet. One of the main complications of a subsea blowout is the remoteness of wellness. One infamous example—and the deepest blowout of this nature—is the Deepwater Horizon blowout from 2010, which occurred at 5,000 feet.
- Underground Blowouts Blowouts that occur underground happen when fluids from zones of higher pressure flow uncontrolled to zones with lower pressures. Often, this is from deep zones to more shallow ones. Adequate safety measures must be observed while drilling because of the risk of a blowout. The damage to the workers involved and the environment is so substantial that blowout prevention should always be a priority.
What Causes a Blowout?
Several different things could cause a blowout to occur. The first and most common is the reservoir pressure. Crude oils such as petroleum are sometimes uncontrollably released from beneath the earth's surface; these flammable liquid have higher pressures than those up at the surface. The hydrocarbons first become trapped in reservoirs, or porous rocks, as they make their way through the rock layers and oil drill workers occasionally come across these high-pressure reservoirs as they are drilling into the ocean floor.
Another cause of an oil rig blowout is what drillers refer to as "the kick."
When drilling for oil in deep surfaces, you must have fluid pressure control so you can balance the hydrostatic pressure. Oil rig drillers do this by using a formation kick drilling mud; however, the pressures are sometimes incorrectly balanced, and the natural oils and gases begin to make their way into the wellbore and up the annulus or inside the drill pipe. If the BOP is not activated early enough or they do not close the pipe fast enough after a kick has been detected, then a blowout may occur once those natural fluids reach the surface.
Importance of Well-Maintained Blowout Preventers
In the dangerous and delicate field of oil rigs, hundreds of mechanical parts come together to maintain the integrity of the structure and keep the rig functioning properly. Among these, the blowout preventer (BOP) fills an essential role. This combination of individual preventers, blowout preventer stack, or blowout preventer system was developed to cope with the erratic, sometimes extreme pressure changes that can occur at a drilling site. When pressure builds up inside a drill hole or along with the flow of gas or oil, it could cause a catastrophic blowout of the equipment and threaten the stability of the rig. Blowout preventers are used as a fail-safe to prevent a potentially disastrous buildup of pressure.
The massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the most significant accidental marine oil spill in the history of the industry, is partially attributed to the malfunction of the rig's 300-ton blowout preventer. After the explosion on the rig, the blowout preventer should have stopped the massive leak of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, but when it failed to complete this task, it was replaced by more successful methods.
BP, the company responsible for the rig and the spill, received criticism for not maintaining the blowout preventer, which was installed for precisely this kind of situation. It was revealed that the BOP had not been inspected for years before the disaster, and ineffective design rendered it unable to stop the massive oil leak.
In the event of a catastrophe, the blowout preventer can minimize the damage and keep oil from polluting the surrounding area. A well-maintained system of BOPs may be able to avert a crisis altogether. After the Deepwater crisis, the U.S. government enacted stricter policies on developing, maintaining, and inspecting blowout preventers—particularly in deep-sea drilling rigs. Despite the dangers of drilling, order for rigs and equipment for them show no signs of decreasing. One can only hope that proper maintenance and caution regarding the blowout preventers can help avert a crisis like the Deepwater Horizon incident.
Oil Rig Blowout FAQ
What’s the difference between a well kick and a well blowout?
Drilling is one of the most dangerous parts of working on an offshore oil rig, due to the significant amount of pressure that has built up underneath the earth’s surface. There is not a way to avoid this pressure, but it can be managed and controlled by maintaining enough counter-pressure. If the pressure below is too great, however, fluids will be forced into the wellbore. This is referred to as a kick. This kick can be managed, but if it continues to increase in severity it will escalate to a full blowout.
I lost someone I love in an oil rig blowout. What can I do now?
Losing a family member is the most difficult experience any person will go through. You have questions that need to be answered. Why did the blowout happen in the first place? Who’s responsible? You’re also dealing with funeral arrangements and trying to figure out how to make ends meet with the sudden loss of support that your loved one provided. At Arnold & Itkin, we’re here to help you get the answers you deserve and the support you need. Applying our resources and our knowledge of the laws that apply to oil rig blowouts, we can hold responsible parties accountable and help you when you need it most.
What are the effects of a well blowout?
Any oil rig blowout can be disastrous. All workers on the rig, particularly those in close proximity to the location of the explosion itself, may be at risk of catastrophic injury or death. A blowout can also cause a considerable amount of harm to the environment and to individuals and businesses in the region. The oil company will also experience significant financial losses. In spite of all of this, some companies continue to cut corners by failing to implement stringent safety standards, falling behind on maintenance, and failing to upgrade or replace aging equipment—leading to preventable tragedies that injure and claim the lives of innocent workers.
Injured in an Offshore Blowout? Take Legal Action & Protect Your Future.
If your oil rig platform experienced the traumatic effects of a blowout, you owe it yourself to seek full compensation for your injuries. No matter the extent of your injuries, an oil rig explosion attorney from Arnold & Itkin LLP can help you seek justice and go up against even the largest oil drilling companies on your behalf. We serve offshore oil rig workers nationwide in their injury and wrongful death claims, and we are driven to produce results. Our legal team has extensive experience. We demand justice for injured seamen like you and have won billions of dollars for our clients.
If there is no recovery for your case, there is no fee, so call today for your free case evaluation at (888) 493-1629 and learn how we can help you after a blowout accident.