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Black Elk Looks Into Cause of Fire

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Black Elk Energy is probing an investigation into what caused an explosion, killing two workers and injuring several, on its Gulf of Mexico oil platform in November. The operator has hired ABS Consulting to help determine what caused the explosion - ABS has not completed its work and has not yet provided a report, stated Black Elk.

The incident occurred when workers were engaged in a construction project on the platform, said the company. The platform, which was used for pumping oil to the surface rather than drilling, had been shut-in since mid-August. The explosion occurred on the deck of West Delta Block 32 platform, which sits in 56 feet of water about 17 miles south of Grand Isle, Louisiana.

Black Elk said the cause of the fire has not been determined and added that it was working with all U.S. agencies in the investigation.

"There was no loss of oil after the fire was controlled," a company statement read. "There is no ongoing spill."

Black Elk received a notice Nov. 21 from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) to take immediate steps to improve safety at its offshore platforms.

"Black Elk has repeatedly failed to operate in a manner that is consistent with federal regulations," James Watson, director of the BSEE, said in a report.

The company has until Dec. 15 to submit a plan.

The BSEE's letter cited "troubling safety incidents" at Black Elk, which operates 98 production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. The agency has logged 156 non-compliance issues in 2012, up from 99 in 2011, according to agency data.

Based on an analysis of the sheen observed after the incident, the company reported that the spill totaled less than one barrel. Based on preliminary estimates of the contents of the tanks involved at the incident, the BSEE requested that Black Elk also report a loss of 480 barrels.

Black Elk engaged ES&H Training and Consulting Group to clean the platform to prevent residual oil on the platform from being washed or blown into the Gulf of Mexico. That work has been completed.

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