The recent, tragic explosion on an oil rig on Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana has brought attention to the largely overlooked oil operations that were and continue to be conducted on the lake. The lake has not seen a large amount of drilling activity within the past twenty-plus years since a moratorium was placed on new oil operations on the lake.
However, the pre-existing operations continued to proceed as normal, one of which resulted in the explosion on October 15th. The platform was operated by Clovelly Oil Co., a New Orleans based independent exploration firm that holds stakes in the seven active wells still operating on the lake, according to WWLTV.
A Clovelly spokeswoman told WWL that the fire was not caused by drilling operations but rather by routine maintenance. Furthermore, the firm has not had any safety or permit violations on any of its Lake Pontchartrain operations, and the platform in questions passed an inspection last month without any issues.
Nonetheless, the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration has announced that they would be joining the existing investigation into the explosion which resulted in one death and several injuries. “OSHA has an open and ongoing investigation into this incident,” stated OSHA spokesman Juan Rodriguez, NOLA reported.
Part of the reason the Lake has gone overlooked for oil operations is because of the comparatively low productivity of the region. The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation released a report in 2010 dictating the low quantities of oil and gas within the lakes basin. WWL noted that the report stated, “The low production is due to the relatively poor conditions for oil and gas accumulations in the lake, and it is the reason major oil companies have generally avoided Lake Pontchartrain.”
Despite this, many proponents for oil and gas drilling in the region purport that the location and convenience of the lake offer unique advantages for operators in the region. As Gifford Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, stated, “If you’re in the middle of Lake Pontchartrain, a lot of those challenges aren’t there, so you’re going to be able to look at producing the resources at a lower cost. Because of that, it’s more economical.”
Perhaps the lake does offer certain advantages over other locations, and, ideally, future operations will have no such complications as the regrettable occurrence which unfolded on the Clovelly rig.