JANUARY 2012: THE KS ENDEAVOR TRAGEDY AT FUNIWA
The KS Endeavor was a modern Friede & Goldman Super M2 jackup built in Sharjah in 2010 by Maritime Industrial Services (MIS) and owned by a joint venture between Singaporean KS Energy Services, Saudi Arabian company Amwal Al Khaleej, and MIS.
The jackup was chartered by Chevron Nigeria to drill in OML 86, a shallow water block located in the Central Niger Delta. In January 2011, the rig operated by the drilling contractor FODE Nigeria, was drilling Funiwa 1A, a natural gas exploration well, located in the Funiwa Field approximately six miles offshore and in approximately 40 feet of water. The Hercules liftboat Mako used as a storage and support facility was jacked up nearby. Earlier in December a first exploration well was spudded but abandoned due to well control issues. Chevron decided to drill a second well near the first one. During the drilling operation Chevron had problems with the well stability, this was exacerbated by the fact that operations had to be suspended several times due rig equipment failures (top drive and rig pumps). The situation worsened over the days and the mud weight had to be increased to 13.5 ppg. The rig crew asked to evacuate the rig but Chevron, snubbed the emergency calls. Reuters reported that testimony from some of the 154 workers who were present alleges that, instead of addressing fears that equipment failures and smoke presaged disaster, Chevron flew extra staff to the platform and kept drilling with gas coming from the well. The KS Drilling rig superintendant asked to double check the lifeboats and keep them ready at all times.
On the 16th of January 2012 At 5:30 in the morning a massive blowout that everyone was expecting excepted Chevron, occurred and the rig became engulfed in flames. The KS Endeavor and the Mako lift boat started to collapse before they completely disappear. One hundred and fifty-four personnel were on the rig and the associated lift boat. The KS Endeavor rig superintendent Bruno Marce, a French National, and Indian driller, Albert Devadas died in the blast.
Chevron contracted the Transocean Baltic to commenced drilling a relief well on February 17, 2012. The relief well intersected the incident well at approximately 9,100 feet (2,774 m). Cement was pumped and the well was successfully killed on March 2, 2012.
In a response to questions from Reuters, Chevron confirmed that “there were no evacuation requests received before the KS Endeavor incident occurred.”
Four transcripts were handed to Reuters of official accounts from workers who were aboard the jackup when the blowout happened. The accounts claim that workers had been pleading with Chevron to be evacuated from the platform due to fears that a disaster was imminent, the accounts then claim Chevron denied the request for evacuation and demanded that drilling continue despite the fact that black smoke was billowing out of a borehole.
Nothing was said about the Chevron company man in charge of the drilling operations on the rig. A worker said that every day they “saw thick smoke coming out of the open hole, and we were all scared like hell because we could see a disaster happening any moment yet they (Chevron) did not evacuate us – why, I do not know.” Omietimi Nana, a maintenance worker on the rig stated that, “about three days before the accident, the drilling company workers told us they wanted to stop drilling because of the gas pressure, but they spoke with Chevron who told them to carry on.” An eye witness said “Bruno was shouting, but with a very strange voice, over the public address system that everyone should abandon the rig, I really felt for him for if not for his timely intervention myself and others would not have been alive today. When he reached the lifeboat, the whole rig was in a cloud of gas. The lifeboat operator tried to call Bruno Marce to ask for permission to launch, but received no reply. The gas caught fire in a deafening explosion as they launched the lifeboat into the sea. “By the time we hit the water the entire rig was engulfed by fire.” Jake Malloy, head of OILC, the offshore energy branch of the RMT union, explained that the workers were worried that they risked losing their jobs if they shut down well operations without the approval of Chevron. “It appears the Endeavor workforce were reluctant to abandon the rig after the evacuation request was denied for fear of losing their jobs,” he said. He pointed to the fact that Bruno Marce took special efforts to ensure the lifeboats were prepared for a quick launch, as evidence that the danger was well known.
As the accident did not happen in the North Sea of the Gulf of Mexico just the minimum was reported by Chevron, NNPC and the rig contractor. According to Reuters, FODE declined to comment on the issue, citing a confidentiality clause in its contract with KS Drilling which prevents the company from making public any information about jobs carried out for Chevron.
RIP Bruno Marce and Albert Devadas.