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

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

The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board said they determined the oil and gas company was not in compliance with drilling regulations after the November 5 incident, they said in a press release on Tuesday.

CNSOPB said the equipment used in a lifting operation onboard the Noble Regina Allen offshore drilling rig under contract to ExxonMobile 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 onboard the rig.  

Workers were in the process of disconnecting a load at the time, CNSOPB 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 ExxonMobile on July 12. 

Pin problems

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

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

CNSOPB said their inspection found a number of issues in addition to those raised by ExxonMobile during their investigation. 

The regulator said they undertook a significant effort to ensure corrective actions were taken by ExxonMobile.

ExxonMobile 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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