Our client worked as derrick man on an oil rig. During drilling, the flow line between the drilling rig and the flow tank filled up with oil-based mud. The line got so full it over-pressured and separated at the mud tanks. Oil-based mud spewed out at high pressures. When the line separated, it separated with enough force that it ripped electrical lines, causing an electrical spark. The spark ignited the oil-based mud in an inferno. Our client was caught in the fire and burned over 60% of his body, including his face.
The Monsour attorneys, assisted by seasoned oilfield experts, discovered that the rig in question had moved just before the explosion. The operator moved the rig 100 feet from one hole to another. In a cost-saving measure, the operator decided to move the rig but leave backyard – including the mud tanks. The flow line had to be extended from 10 feet to 110 feet so it would reach the mud tanks. The long, flat flow line presented problems moving the drilling fluids and cuttings into the mud tanks. The operator installed a rotating head during a very early phase of the drilling to help move fluids and cuttings the length of the flow line.
There was a kick, and a sudden surge of fluid filled the flow line. Because the rotating head had been installed too early, there was nowhere for the fluid to go. The flow line backed up and over-pressured, causing the line to separate and start the explosion.
The Monsour attorneys learned that the company responsible for the flow line idea had hired a roughneck turned welder to design its 100 foot, flat flow line. The company should have hired an engineer to design the flow line. The welder failed to put a pressure relief valve into the flow line. Without a pressure relief valve, the system backed up instead of bleeding off pressure. Once the design flaw was uncovered, the company settled for a confidential amount.