Oklahoma: Red Mountain Energy rig explosion kills Josh Ray, 35; Cody Risk, 26; Parker Waldridge, 60; Roger Cunningham, 55; and Matt Smith, 29; One other worker hospitalized; Company not sure what they were drilling for; Patterson-UTI has long history of fatal accidents

The driller involved in the deadly Oklahoma rig explosion has a history of fatal accidents by Sean Murphy, Associated Press, January 25, 2018, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
OKLAHOMA CITY — Ten workers have died over the past decade at well sites linked to drilling contractor Patterson-UTI, the same driller involved in this week’s rig explosion in Oklahoma that killed five workers, federal records show.

An analysis of Occupational Safety and Health Administration data shows the previous accidents happened at drilling sites in Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas.

The company also was fined nearly $367,000 over the past 10 years for more than 140 safety violations, many of them serious.

“Patterson-UTI has embraced a culture of continuous improvement in safety, training and operations,” the company said in a statement in response to questions about its safety record. “In recent years, we have invested millions of dollars on training and protective equipment and worked to instill a company-wide culture where safety is the top priority of each employee.”

A 2008 report from a U.S. Senate committee described Patterson-UTI as one of the nation’s worst violators of workplace safety laws. The report devoted an entire section to the company and 13 employees who died in Texas rig accidents over a nearly four-year period.

A separate AP analysis published in 2008 showed at least 20 Patterson-UTI employees died on the job between 2002 and 2007. No other oil and gas company had more than five fatal accidents during that span.

Federal and state investigators are working to determine what led to Monday’s blast and resulting fires at the natural gas drilling site near Quinton, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of Tulsa. An initial incident report indicates there was an uncontrolled release of gas that caught fire and that a worker at the scene tried unsuccessfully to shut down the well.

The bodies of the five workers were recovered the next day in the rig’s “dog house,” a room on the rig floor that generally serves as an office for the drilling crew, authorities said.

Monday’s explosion and rig fire appear to be the deadliest oil and gas industry accident since 2010, when 11 workers were killed after an explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico that triggered the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Frank Branson, a Dallas-based plaintiff’s attorney who specializes in catastrophic workplace accidents, said oil and gas operations are inherently dangerous and many companies are lax on safety, especially as energy prices go higher.

“When the oil patch gets really busy … it’s the time when the workers are most vulnerable,” Branson said. “Unless the company preaches safety and requires it be conducted by their employees and management, there are going to be injuries and substantial deaths.”

Branson said one of the problems that often leads to safety lapses is the difficulty energy companies have hiring experienced workers during an uptick in energy production.

“We’ve seen a lot of accidents occur because somebody on a crew had just joined the company and didn’t know ‘come here’ from ‘sic ‘em,‘” Branson said.

Bodies of five workers recovered after oil well explosion in Oklahoma: sheriff by Reuters, January 23, 2018, The Globe and Mail

The bodies of five workers who died in a fiery explosion at an oil and gas well site outside of Quinton, Oklahoma were recovered on Tuesday afternoon in a building next to the drilling rig, Pittsburg County Sheriff Chris Morris said.

The accident, which followed several fatal mishaps in recent months at Oklahoma oil and gas operations, is the deadliest U.S. drilling mishap since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon offshore rig explosion that claimed 11 lives.

The bodies were transferred to the state medical examiner in Oklahoma City, for identification, Morris said. The building was a control operation near the rig. The five included three workers from Oklahoma and one each from Texas and Colorado.

The workers had been missing and presumed dead since Monday, when a blast ripped through a Red Mountain Energy drill site, sparking a huge blaze fed by natural gas from the well. The Oklahoma City-based energy producer, which shares management with natural gas marketing and investment firm Clearwater Enterprises, did not respond to requests for comment.

Local and company officials said the cause of the explosion has not been determined. The company had begun drilling the well in December.

Federal agencies including the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and U.S. Chemical Safety Board, and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission have begun investigations.

Three of Houston-based drilling contractor Patterson-UTI Energy’s employees were among those killed. Officials have not said what company employed the other two workers.

Patterson-UTI did not respond to a request for comment.

There were 22 workers at the site, which is about 146 miles (235 km) from Oklahoma City, involved in the drilling when the explosion occurred. Officials said 16 got away safely while one was treated for burns and released.

The fire was extinguished late Monday. Investigators have been combing the scene for clues to what caused the blast, said Kevin Enloe, director of the Pittsburg County Emergency Management Department.

The victims were identified as Josh Ray, 35, from Fort Worth, Texas; Cody Risk, 26, of Wellington, Colorado; Parker Waldridge, 60, of Crescent, Oklahoma; Roger Cunningham, 55, of Seminole, Oklahoma; and Matt Smith, 29, of McAlester, Oklahoma.

The explosion is the latest in a series of fatal accidents at Oklahoma oil and gas fields.

A 40-year-old Oklahoma man was killed in a backhoe accident this month at an oilfield near Ninnekah, another worker was killed last month when equipment collapsed at a site near Preston, and a 36-year-old man was killed in November when a fitting failed during fracking at a well near Watonga, according to media reports.

Accidents during oil and gas drilling claim about 100 lives a year in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which reported that 1,189 workers were killed in the 11 years ended 2013, a period of intensive drilling. [Emphasis added]

5 presumed dead after Okla. gas well site explosion by Mike Lee and Mike Soraghan, January 23, 2018, E&E News

QUINTON, Okla. — Five oil field workers were presumed dead yesterday after a fiery explosion at a gas rig in eastern Oklahoma.

The rig belonged to Patterson-UTI Energy Inc., a Houston-based service company with a history of worker deaths. Three of the five missing workers were Patterson employees. The rig was at a well site operated by a relatively new Oklahoma City company called Red Mountain Energy LLC.

Authorities were called to the well site about 100 miles south of Tulsa shortly before 9 a.m. local time. Eventually, 16 workers escaped unharmed. Authorities initially said one worker was airlifted for treatment of burn injuries and five were missing.

Later in the evening, Pittsburg County Sheriff Chris Morris told local news outlets that the crew members were presumed to be dead and local authorities would begin recovering their bodies.

Fire officials said they contained the blaze but decided not to try to extinguish it for fear of spreading hazardous materials and causing other problems. State officials said Boots & Coots Services, a Halliburton Co. subsidiary well known for containing well fires, was summoned to the site. “Secondary explosions” occurred during the day, officials said at a news conference.

“All we’re doing is combatting any fire that escapes the location,” said Pittsburg County Emergency Management Director Kevin Enloe. “It’s pretty much containing itself.”

Patterson-UTI officials said the cause of the explosion and fire was not known.

“There is nothing more important to us than the safety of our employees and others we partner with in the field,” said company President and CEO Andy Hendricks. “Tonight, our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected and their loved ones.”

Calls to Red Mountain Energy were not returned.

By 6 p.m., the fire appeared to be out and state troopers reopened the gravel access road leading to the drill site.

The rig was working in rolling country, about 5 miles south of the Oklahoma Highway 31 in an area dotted with small homes, ranches and well pads. Reporters and other bystanders were kept at a distance, with the drilling rig’s control room just visible above a patch of trees.

Trucks carrying oil field and emergency workers rumbled away from the site. Rick Belt, of Poteau, Okla., works for a company that supplies oil field vacuum trucks and answered a few questions through the window of his idling pickup.

“I’ve been in it a long time,” he said, when asked to sum up the dangers of the oil patch. “It worries everybody.”

Patterson-UTI has a long history of fatal accidents. In 2008, a U.S. Senate committee called Patterson-UTI Drilling “one of the worst violators of workplace safety laws.” The Democratic-led panel’s report deemed it an example of the federal government’s “complete failure to check reckless and outrageous conduct” in the workplace.

In the preceding five years, 12 of its workers had been killed on the job. Since the report, at least 10 more Patterson workers have died.

In 2014, Patterson-UTI officials told the Houston Chronicle the company had been working to improve safety at the company since 2008, investing more than $150 million on training and equipment. The company said at the time that its accident rate was “above average” for the land-based drilling industry.

“Since 2008, Patterson-UTI has continuously worked to improve its safety processes,” the company told the Chronicle. “We have reorganized and restructured our safety department [and] implemented a comprehensive, consistent safety management system, which has been communicated to our employees and includes comprehensive audits and inspections.”

The company has had other workforce problems. In 2015, it agreed to pay $14.5 million in a settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on claims of race and national origin discrimination affecting more than 1,000 employees.

EEOC alleged that since at least 2006, the company engaged in a nationwide pattern or practice of discrimination on its drilling rigs. That includes assigning African-Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, Asian-Americans, and biracial individuals to the lowest level jobs, failing to train and promote them, disproportionately disciplining and demoting them, and subjecting them to pervasive racial and ethnic slurs, and engaging in retaliation.

The company has provided corporate support for an industry safety conference held every two years in Texas.

The oil and gas drilling industry has a fatality rate roughly seven times higher than the national average, although the number of deaths dropped sharply in 2016. It also has one of the highest rates of workplace deaths from fires and explosions (Energywire, Jan. 12, 2015).

Red Mountain Energy was founded in 2013 by former Chesapeake Energy Corp. geologist Lanny Holman. He was one of 275 Chesapeake employees offered a buyout in late 2012. According to The Oklahoman newspaper, he was contacted within days by Oklahoma City businessman Tony Say, who became one of Holman’s partners at Red Mountain.

The company made plans to focus on oil production in the Mid-continent and Permian Basin regions. The Oklahoman reported that the company was backed by Say and Clearwater Enterprises LLC and Jack Golsen, founder and CEO of Oklahoma City-based LSB Industries Inc.

The company’s Facebook page describes it as “a premier exploration company with strong consideration to the environment while maximizing value and maintaining a culture of passion, integrity and focus.” [Emphasis added]

Watch press conference at link: 5 missing after oil and gas well explosion near Quinton by KJRH, updated January 23, 2018

Patterson-UTI sent a statement to 2 Works For You on Monday afternoon:

Patterson-UTI confirms that we are responding to a fire at one of our drilling rigs in Pittsburg County, Oklahoma. The cause of the fire is unknown at this time. We have received reports that some of our employees and others are unaccounted for at this time. Our top priority is the safety of our employees and any others who may be affected. We’ve activated our emergency response systems and are fully cooperating with first responders and authorities on the scene. We will provide more details as they are known.

Officials say that nitrous oxide is leaking. [Emphasis added]

Videos by Roughneck News, click on this link, then on second and third images at their site to play

Snaps from the clips:

Five Missing In Oklahoma Gas Well Explosion by Rough Neck News, January 22, 2018

Emergency Manager Kevin Enloe said five people are missing in a gas well explosion in Pittsburg County.

The fire is west of Quinton – between that city and Featherston. Volunteers firefighters are on scene

At least three medical helicopters landed at the site, Enloe said.

The explosion took place a little before 9 a.m. The fire is still burning at 11:25 a.m.

The rig has collapsed, and there are several fires burning at the site.

The rig where the explosion is operated by Red Mountain Operating, also known as Red Mountain Energy. The operating company is based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Corporation Commission spokesman Matt Skinner said.

Quinton is located about 110 miles south-southeast of Tulsa.

About 15 people were working on the rig when the explosion occurred.

It is unclear at this time how many people were injured.

Uncomfirmed reports this is Patterson Rig 219– we are working to confirm this.

Roughneck City will continue to update this in real time as information becomes available [Emphasis added]

5 missing after Oklahoma oil and gas drilling site explosion, Explosion latest in a series of accidents at state’s oil and gas fields by Thomson Reuters, January 22nd 2018, CBC News

Fires burn at an eastern Oklahoma drilling rig near Quinton, Okla., Monday. Five people are missing after a fiery explosion ripped through a drilling rig, emergency officials said. (Christina Goodvoice, KOTV/NewsOn6.com/Associated Press)

Five workers were missing after a fiery explosion on Monday at an oil and gas drilling site in eastern Oklahoma, officials said.

The fire had been fed by gas from a well being drilled for Red Mountain Energy by Patterson-UTI Energy Inc, preventing a full search of the scene throughout the day, but was later extinguished, the Pittsburg County Emergency Management Department (PCEMD) said in a statement.

Houston-based Patterson-UTI said in a statement late on Monday the cause of the well explosion remained unclear. It said three of the five missing workers were its employees. Patterson-UTI declined to identify the workers, who were also
not identified by local authorities.

“Well control experts and emergency responders are on site and we will conduct a thorough investigation when the incident is fully contained,” Patterson-UTI chief executive Andy Hendricks said in a statement.

1 injured
PCEMD director Kevin Enloe said one of the 22 workers at the site when the explosion occurred was treated for injuries and 16 others were uninjured.

The blast occurred at around 9 a.m. CT near Quinton, Okla., about 235 km from Oklahoma City.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which investigates fatal workplace accidents, was closed on Monday because of the federal government shutdown. [Trump making American great again or destroying it?]

Boots & Coots, Halliburton’s well control and prevention service, was called in to put out the fire. Staff from the state’s energy regulator, Oklahoma Corporation Commission, were also on the scene, officials said.

Series of accidents
The explosion is the latest in a series of accidents at oil and gas fields in the state. A gas explosion occurred at a Trinity Resources well in the same area in February 2017, injuring a worker.

More recently, a 40-year-old Oklahoma man was killed in a backhoe accident this month at an oilfield near Ninnekah. A worker was killed last month when equipment collapsed at a site near Preston, and a 36-year-old man was killed in November when a fitting failed during fracking at a well near Watonga, according to media reports.

[How many workers are killed because of corporate and regulator law violation enabling by Canadian and American courts?

2017 08 04: Fracking by Karve Energy Inc. at Consort Alberta killed Charles Oba, Calgary father of two; Family demands answers. Police not releasing name of the victim. Will Karve Energy blame Charles?

2017 08 01: “Justice” Alberta Style: Suncor ignored safety problems before operator plunged to death in tailings pond, Fined a measly $300,000 for causing death of Jerry Cooper, who worked 13 years for the company

2017 04 16: Corporate Greed Knows No Bounds, Especially in Alberta: Despite economic slowdown, Alberta work fatalities jump by 15 per cent last year

2017 01 04: Happy Alberta-Oil-Patch-Get-Away-with-Murder New Year? After 10 years to investigate and release report, CNRL fined $10,000 – maximum allowed – following regulation violations that killed 2 workers, injured 5 others, 13 in total trapped by devastating tank collapse. All 29 charges against CNRL dropped. Alberta’s “No Duty of Care” energy “regulation” wins & kills, again.

2016 10 24: Shell Canada, Fox Creek Alberta: 47 year old worker killed by water hose in AER’s Blanket Approval, “Brute Force & Ignorant” Frac Frenzy Pilot Project

2016 09 25: “My son was murdered” Drilling through Danger Chapter One: Regulatory vacuum compounds inherent risks; In 12-year span, an oil and gas worker died once every three months on average in Colorado, 51 workers died between 2003-14, victims of a system focused more on protecting industry than its employees

2016 07 13: NEXEN BLAMES WORKERS for major explosion that killed two at tarsands SAGD steam injection site near Fort McMurray

2016 04 12: “I’m actually outraged.” With Alberta Court’s blessings, Energy giant CNRL derails full public inquiry into foreign workers’ deaths

2015 03 12: Jack Shawn Eyles, 28, from Kelowna, dies fracking in NE BC for Calfrac (Nitrogen Pumping Division) on Progress Energy Canada Ltd. Site: “Not an explosion as we usually think, but an explosive or sudden release of extremely high pressure”

2014 02 11: Alberta workplace fatalities close to record numbers in 2013, led by a near doubling of fatalities caused by occupational disease

2014 02 01: Fracking Injuries, deaths and dangers for workers and communities

2013 09 27: University Alberta Researchers say Alberta drastically under-reports workplace injuries

And how many workers are killed because of courts ordering gag orders?]

Accidents [most greed induced?] during oil and gas drilling claim about 100 lives a year in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the CDC reported 1,189 workers were killed in the 11 years ended 2013, a period of intensive drilling.

Two-thirds of the fatalities involved transportation or contact with objects or equipment, the CDC found. More than 50 percent involved employees of oilfield service companies. [Emphasis added]

5 missing after oil rig explosion in Oklahoma by WTKR, January 22, 2018

Deputies in Pittsburg County confirm they are working an explosion near Quinton, Oklahoma on Monday morning about 9:30 a.m.

Officials tell us that about 15 workers were working on an oil rig when it exploded.

Five people remain missing.

At least one worker transported to hospital.

Officials tell us the explosion happened in a wooded area.

Oklahoma Corporation Commission confirms “Red Mountain Energy LLC” out of OKC is the operator at this site.

The company confirms this was a drilling rig, however, they are not sure what they were drilling for.

To OCC knowledge, they do not believe the OCC has handled anything with this company before.

OCC has two people out on the scene dealing with this from an environmental standpoint.

State Emergency Management says they have contacted the DEQ and the Corporation Commission because of the type of incident.

A viewer who lives nearby says that the explosion happened on a rig in off Bascum road.

Several ambulances and there are three life flight choppers waiting.

No word on if anyone is injured.

2 Works For You has a crew on the way to the scene and will bring you the latest information as we learn it. [Emphasis added]

Emergency official: 5 missing after Oklahoma rig explosion by The Associated Press, January 22, 2018, The Seattle Times

QUINTON, Okla. (AP) — Five people are missing after a fiery explosion ripped through an eastern Oklahoma drilling rig Monday morning, sending plumes of black smoke into the air and leaving a derrick crumpled on the ground, an emergency official said.

Pittsburg County Emergency Manager Director Kevin Enloe told television station KOTV that at least three medical helicopters landed at the site following the explosion. He said five people were missing.

Aerial footage from midday Monday showed several fires still burning at the site and the derrick, a towering metal structure above the well, collapsed onto the ground.

The explosion occurred west of the town of Quinton, about 100 miles (161 kilometers) southeast of Tulsa.

Oklahoma Office of Emergency Management spokeswoman Keli Cain told The Associated Press that she couldn’t immediately confirm any injuries or fatalities.

Cain said state environmental and regulatory officials have been notified and were heading to the scene. A local emergency dispatcher said the sheriff, undersheriff and county emergency management director are all on the scene.

The drilling site was being operated by Oklahoma City-based Red Mountain Energy, said Matt Skinner, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which regulates oil and gas operators. Telephone and email messages left with Red Mountain were not immediately returned.

Skinner said a company that specializes in rig fires and other well control problems also responded to the blaze.

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