Working in the oil-drilling industry seems to be up there with being part of a bomb-detonation squad in terms of safety these days.
In February and March so far, I’m aware of three deaths in accidents on oil fields or rigs in North Dakota alone.
And last month, luckily, an oil-drilling blowout in Alaska that could have left a horrific death count instead was skillfully handled. No one was injured, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
In that incident, the Spanish oil company Reposal was drilling an exploratory well when pressure from a pocket of gas triggered a “blowout,” with mud and methane gas exploding out of a pipe, the Daily News reported.
Luckily, even though the gas kept escaping from the pipe for hours, it did not ignite and none of the 76 people working on the rig were hurt.
Roughly 42,000 gallons of so-called “drilling mud” was released as a result of the blowout. That mud “is a clay mixture designed to lubricate the hole, carry out rock to the surface and provide downward pressure to reduce the risk of a blowout,” according to the Anchorage newspaper.
Blowouts have become rarer as a result of better technology, in terms of drilling and geologic modeling. But of course they do still happen, with the Daily News citing the BP tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico.
By the way, in Alaska the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is the watchdog governing worker safety, conservation and environmental protection.