LONDON, July 11 (Reuters) – Chevron Corp. left workers pleading to be evacuated from a gas exploration platform off Nigeria which kept drilling as smoke poured from a borehole until an explosion that killed two people as the rig became engulfed in flames, according to accounts from four of the platform’s workers.
Chevron, the second largest U.S. oil major, said it did not receive requests to evacuate the KS Endeavour rig and that staff on board had the right to call a halt to work if they believed conditions were unsafe.
“There were no evacuation requests received before the KS Endeavour incident occurred,” the U.S. energy company said in an emailed response to questions from Reuters.
Testimony from some of the 154 workers who were present alleges that, instead of addressing fears that equipment failures and smoke presaged disaster, Chevron flew extra staff to the platform just before the Jan. 16, 2012, blowout.
Chevron says a nationwide Nigerian strike that included staff at airports had disrupted its normal crew changes but that at no time were approved safe manning levels exceeded.
The fire that followed the blast burned on the rig for 46 days until March 2. Chevron drilled a relief well to stem the gas leak, sealing it on June 18. It said in an email to Reuters on July 2 that an investigation with the Nigerian authorities had concluded that an entry of high pressure gas in the wellbore had caused the failure of equipment and fire.