Beneath the crisscrossing latticework of an oil derrick, the threat of catastrophic well failure always looms. Perhaps the most feared of all oilfield accidents is the unanticipated well blowout, which can have catastrophic, deadly consequences.
On a 100-degree Texas afternoon, oilfield workers prepare a derrick for normal drilling operation. Few average people consider that they are digging up matter that could someday become neon nail polish, refined jet fuel, or a plastic storage bin. Even fewer average people consider what oilfield workers face when an oilfield accident happens on the rig, resulting in catastrophic injury or even wrongful death.
In the early 1900s, miners carried canary birds into the mines with them as poison testers. At the time, no available instruments could detect carbon monoxide (CO) - a lethal, tasteless, odorless, invisible, flammable gas. However, if the canary stopped singing or perished from CO exposure, miners knew to evacuate. Canaries have since become ingrained in mining culture, even though more sophisticated technology has replaced them as CO detectors. Unfortunately, the same threat of CO in the workplace remains.
The pop-off valve might not receive the same recognition as the battered hard hat, the treaded rubber boot, or the leather work glove, but it is still one of the most important pieces of safety equipment in the oil and gas industry. Also called a "pressure relief valve," it saves pipes and, most importantly, oil and gas workers' lives. Pipelines under too much pressure practically become underground bombs, but this device counters the kaboom by acting like an automatic diffuser.
Fatal and injurious oilfield accidents in Texas are all too common. In fact, the oil and gas industry has some of the highest rates of work-related accidents. Big oil companies and lobbies like the American Petroleum Institute (API) dispute the federal statistics, asserting that the industry has low rates of injury compared to other occupations.
The Texas Permian Basin, currently one of the most productive oil fields in the world, is also one of the most accident-prone regions in the oil and gas industry. In 2014, Texas had the most oil and gas-related fatalities in the nation, the majority of which occurred in the Permian Basin and Eagle Ford Shale regions (see page 9).
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) recently released a study on 2017 crash statistics in Texas's five primary oil- and gas-producing regions: the year tallied over 194,000 crashes with 7,422 serious injuries and 1,614 deaths. The personal injury lawyers at Wyatt Law Firm, Ltd. have dealt with many automobile and commercial trucking accident cases from this region.
The oil and gas industry has long been the cornerstone of the Texas economy. If you have worked in this industry all your life, it is possible that your parents and grandparents also had jobs related to energy. It is also quite likely that you or someone you know has suffered an injury on the job.
Two workers suffered injuries on October 17 in an oil field explosion at the Ledwig Ranch between Millet and Dilley, Texas. By the time firefighters arrived at the scene, several oil tanks at the site were engulfed in flames.
As a resident of Texas, you know that rich deposits of oil and gas exist in certain regions. In fact, in recent years, the state has seen a surge in drilling, which creates jobs. Unfortunately, along with an increase in various job opportunities in the oil and gas extraction business, there also appears to be an increase in fatal work accidents, many involving negligence or defective equipment.