ExxonMobil fined $40K after heavy chain fell within centimetres of worker

Nova Scotia’s offshore petroleum regulator has fined ExxonMobil $40,000 after a heavy chain fell near workers on a drilling rig last year.

The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board said it determined the oil and gas company was not in compliance with drilling regulations after the Nov. 5 incident.

In a press release on Tuesday, the board said the equipment used in a lifting operation on board the Noble Regina Allen offshore drilling rig under contract to ExxonMobil was not maintained and operated to prevent the incident. 

Five workers were on deck when the 16-metre-long, 102-kilogram chain and shackles fell about 17 metres, missing one worker by about 30 centimetres. The shackles and chain are part of the lifting equipment used on board the rig.  

Workers were in the process of disconnecting a load at the time, the board said. 

“While no one was injured, the incident was classified as a near miss with the potential for a fatality,” said the regulator in their notice of violation, which was issued to ExxonMobil on July 12. 

Pin problems

ExxonMobil said after the incident, it stopped work for five days and conducted a review. 

“While we do not agree with all aspects of the notice, the central facts in this incident are not in dispute,” the company said in a statement on Tuesday

The chain drop was caused by a shackle failure, specifically a nut failing to be held by a cotter pin, the petroleum board said.  

“Had the shackle been properly maintained and operated, the cotter pin would have prevented the shackle from failing,” it said. 

After an inspection in November, the regulator found a number of further issues with the use of cotter pins in shackles on the rig — including missing pins, old and corroded pins, improperly sized pins and improperly installed pins.

Replacement pins were not readily available, it said. 

Company paid fine

The board said its inspection found a number of issues in addition to those raised by ExxonMobil. 

The regulator said it undertook a significant effort to ensure corrective actions were taken by the company.

ExxonMobil said they shared what they learned across the company and industry. 

“No one was injured but someone could have been, and for us this is not acceptable,” the company said.

“Safety is a core value for ExxonMobil. It is more important than any business objective.”

ExxonMobil paid the fine on Monday.

The company has been decommissioning natural gas wells from the nearly-completed Sable Offshore Energy Project. 

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