NEW ORLEANS - The Bureau of Safety and Environmental
Enforcement recently notified Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations that the
company must take immediate steps to improve its safety performance on the U.S.
Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The specific actions were detailed in a letter
to the company that follows a number of enforcement actions taken by the bureau
over the past two years related to violations of federal regulations, including
incidents resulting in injuries and pollution.
The action precedes any potential enforcement actions
that may be deemed appropriate following the conclusion of the bureau's
investigation into the Nov. 16 explosion and fire aboard the West Delta 32
"Black Elk has repeatedly failed to operate in a manner
that is consistent with federal regulations," said BSEE Director James A.
Watson, in a statement. "BSEE has taken a number of enforcement actions,
including issuing numerous Incidents of Non Compliance (INCs), levying civil
penalties and calling in the company's senior leadership to review their
performance and the ramifications of failing to improve. This is an appropriate
and necessary step as we continue to investigate the explosion and fire that
resulted in the tragic loss of life and injuries last week."
By Dec. 15, Black Elk must submit a performance
improvement plan that details the steps it will take to ensure compliance in
its operations, according to a BSEE press release. If the company does not
demonstrate improved performance, it will face further enforcement actions,
which can include potential revocation of its designation as an operator on all
its facilities on the OCS.
BSEE has also given Black Elk the following corrective
actions that must be adhered to immediately:
1. Keep all facilities that currently are
in a shut-in status in such status until it provides BSEE with documentation of
the corrective actions taken to safely return each facility into operational
status to BSEE's satisfaction.
2. Notify the appropriate District Office
at least 48 hours prior to returning these facilities to production to allow
for the proper BSEE inspection.
3. Immediately cease hot work on its
facilities until it demonstrates to BSEE's satisfaction that steps have been
taken, and a safety manager is in place whose responsibility it will be to
improve hazard identification, training, and oversight for such
4. Develop a performance improvement plan
that at a minimum:
documentation to BSEE that Black Elk has complied with the requirements of 30
CFR Subpart S;
b. Initiates an independent
third-party audit of Black Elk's Safety and Environmental Management Systems
(SEMS) program in accordance with 30 CFR § 250.1925(a). Such audits
must begin no later than Jan. 31, 2013; and
c. Integrates BSEE
auditors into the third-party audit team.
5. Submit the plan and scope of the
audit(s) referenced in paragraph 4 above for approval by BSEE no later than
Dec. 15, 2012.
6. Within 30 days, provide an analysis of
all INCs issued to Black Elk since 2010 and document patterns and actions taken
by Black Elk to change processes or procedures to prevent similar incidents on
The action taken by BSEE today follows numerous safety
incidents involving Black Elk facilities. These incidents include the fire and
explosion that occurred last Friday at West Delta 32, the issuance of 45 INCs
in October 2012 for violations on nine facilities in the South Marsh Island
area in the Gulf of Mexico and an October 2011 incident where it was discovered
that Black Elk operations had used an acid-based chemical for treating a well
that resulted in the hospitalization of six workers.