The federal agency in charge of offshore safety isn't quite willing to give a clean bill of health to Black Elk Energy 10 months after a fatal explosion on one of the oil company's platforms.
Three workers died on Black Elk's oil production platform in the West Delta area off Venice, La., last November when they cut a pipe that had not been properly cleared of flammable gas. An investigation by WWL-TV found the workers killed appeared to be victims of a human trafficking ring originating in the Philippines and connected to Black Elk's contractor on the platform, Grand Isle Shipyards.
The U.S. Interior Department's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement sent a letter to Black Elk shortly after the accident citing its poor safety record and giving it a month to file a plan of improvement. Black Elk CEO John Hoffman responded with a plan in December 2012.
The regulatory agency issued a new letter this month updating Black Elk's progress in following that improvement plan. That letter says Black Elk successfully completed 35 performance improvement tasks, including an independent third-party audit of its safety systems and revised safety standards and improved oversight.
But the letter also identifies nine points of improvement Black Elk has only partially completed, including improving contractor training and selection, hiring more experienced personnel and testing devices on its platforms more rigorously.
The letter from BSEE Regional Director Lars Herbst notes that Black Elk was cited for three more serious 'incidents of non-compliance' in 2013 that forced it to shut in some of its facilities. Herbst demands that Black Elk submit more corrective action plans if it wants to avoid disqualification as a Gulf of Mexico operator.
*Letter to Black Elk from last November
**Black Elk Letter from Sept. 4