A special ship used to collect oil from a well off the Louisiana coast lost power and drifted off location Friday, causing a small amount of oil to leak into the Gulf of Mexico, but no injuries.
The Helix Producer I, the first oil production vessel shaped like a ship, stays connected to subsea wells using a satellite-based navigation system. Essentially, it stays in place using computers and actually moves with the ocean currents to stay still.
But the ship experienced a blackout around 1:30 Friday afternoon, causing the dynamic positioning system to fail and the ship to drift off site. Once it drifted more than 17 feet, it automatically disconnected from the well below, said David Blackmon, a spokesman for the well's owner, Energy Resources Technology/Talos Energy.
When it disconnected, a few ounces of oil leaked into the water. Blackmon and Eileen Angelico, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, said that's exactly how the system is designed to work in an emergency.
'I am happy to say that everything worked the way it was supposed to work,' David Blackmon said.
The production facility 100 miles southwest of Houma has been shut in since the incident and will remain that way until BSEE can inspect it and give the all-clear.
Angelico said emergency shut-ins like this are not common. It's another tough break for ERT/Talos, which has been involved in some significant accidents recently. Two of the 10 offshore platform fatalities since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion have happened at ERT/Talos platforms. And ERT/Talos is one of just two Gulf oil and gas operators placed on a special Performance Improvement Plan by the federal safety agency last year.