Black Elk Energy Company Must Improve Its Safety Operations

Black Elk Energy Company, owner of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico oil platform that suffered a deadly blast last week, must improve its safety in offshore operations, regulators said Wednesday.

The U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said it had notified the Houston-based oil production company that it could lose its license to operate offshore platforms unless it improved its safety performance.

The blaze erupted as workers all Filipino were using a torch to cut an oil line on the platform.

The deadly platform explosion, which happened one day after British oil giant BP agreed to pay a record 4.5 billion U.S. dollars in fines for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, put spotlight back on Gulf of Mexico drillers.

The agency had ordered Black Elk to submit a performance improvement plan, detailing the steps it would take to ensure compliance in its operations.

Unless there was swift evidence of improved performance, the company could be barred from operating facilities on the outer continental shelf, the BSEE said.

Meanwhile, regulators insisted on a third-party audit of the company’s safety management systems and were barring the company from launching work at offline facilities.

The five-year-old firm has a poor safety record and before last week’s explosion, it had made more than 300 documented mistakes and violations offshore, according to the website of a local media The Houston Chronicle.

The federal government has ordered Black Elk to immediately cease burning, welding and other activities that could ignite fires at all of its 98 oil and gas production facilities in the Gulf of Mexico.

A fire broke out last Friday at a Black Elk Energy oil and natural gas platform some 40 km off the Louisiana coast, leaving two missing and 11 injured, with four in serious condition.

One of the two missing workers was confirmed dead, and Black Elk Energy on Tuesday suspended its search for the other missing worker.

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