Vermillion 380 A Platform Oil Rig Fire on September 2, 2010

Vermillion 380 A Platform

In the 1980s, the Vermillion 380 A Platform was built off the coast of Louisiana. Mariner Energy, Inc., a company later acquired by Apache Corporation, owned the offshore platform. On September 2, 2010, the platform was off-line for some maintenance when it caught on fire. According to reports, the light could be seen from over 100 miles away; the fire only burned for a few hours before being extinguished. All of the workers dove into the ocean and huddled together in their “gumby suits.” Two hours later, they were rescued, and only 1 of the 13 crew members sustained injury from the ordeal. Luckily, the platform had not been producing or drilling for oil for two whole years before the incident.

Therefore, only mild consequences resulted from the accident—unlike the Deepwater Horizon tragedy—which occurred 200 miles east of the Vermillion 380 A explosion.

The Cause of the Vermillion 380 A Fire

When a fire breaks out on an oil platform, authorities conduct detailed investigations to determine how it started. In the case of Vermillion 380 A, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) performed an in-depth analysis of the cause of the fire. Through their searching, the BOEM discovered that an entirely avoidable accident caused the fire. Mariner Energy, Inc. allowed a 30-year-old “Heater-Treater” to run in the Vermillion 380 A system. A Heater-Treater uses heat along with electricity and other chemicals to separate oily water emulsions into oil and water. After three decades of use, the fire tube of the machine was weak from various factors. The Heater-Treater’s fire tube was affected by heat, corrosion, and pitting. On the day of the fire, the fire tube collapsed inside the platform’s Heater-Treater, causing the system to erupt into flames.

While the heater-treater caused the fire, the Vermillion 380 A also experienced a failure in safety equipment. In oil rig explosion accidents, it is well-known that the force of an explosion can cut out the primary power. In preparation of a primary power failure, all oil rigs must maintain an active emergency generator to deal with life-threatening situations. However, when the fire tube collapsed on the Vermillion 380 A, the central power cut out, as expected; however, the emergency generator failed to come online.

Due to the failure of the emergency generator, the 13-member crew of the rig was unable to turn on the firewater system. In the case of the Vermillion 380 A, if the emergency generator had been capable of running, the crew might have been able to deal with the fire on their own. Unfortunately, the team had no means to fight the fire, resulting in their immediate evacuation from the platform. Once the team evacuated, they tread water for two hours until a vessel named the Crystal Clear rescued them from the ocean.

Vermillion 380 A Explosion Deemed a Lucky Anomaly

In most cases, oil rig fires and explosions cause significantly more damage than the Vermillion 380 accident. In this scenario, there was only one injury and no fatalities; however, this is not always the case. Compare the injury count with the Deepwater Horizon explosion, which occurred that same year. In that incident, 11 lost their lives and many sustained severe injuries. If you or a loved one has faced an oil rig fire, you should not hesitate to seek immediate assistance from a legal professional. At Arnold & Itkin, we are vastly experienced in this area of the law and can help you protect your constitutional rights while pursuing a maritime claim.

Want to discuss your potential case in more detail? Just pick up the phone and call us or take advantage of our online form. We are available to discuss your situation and can help you understand all of the legal options available to you.

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