Black Elk has paid some hefty federal fines - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Black Elk has paid some hefty federal fines

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New Orleans, La. – As a company, Black Elk Energy has not been a part of the oil and gas industry landscape very long. But it has racked up some hefty federal fines.

The independent oil and gas company was founded in 2007 and is based in Houston, Texas.

"We're a very close knit group here at Black Elk, almost a family type of environment so whenever we have anything like this it goes straight to our heart and we'll do everything we can for the families of those affected," said Jon Hoffman, Black Elk chief executive officer and president.

A spokesman for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said their investigators are on the scene of the incident. 

"They have a normal procedure where they will investigate what happened, they'll interview everybody and they will come to their conclusions," said Professor Eric Smith of Tulane's Energy Institute. "This is a fire, the fire is out, there may be some sheen for a day or two but probably no significant loss of oil and gas, and the company will be subjected to fines and investigation to make sure that this doesn't become a common occurrence."

Smith said the incident does not come close to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blast and subsequent oil spill.  11 workers died in that incident and oil spewed from BP's underwater well for months off the coast of Louisiana.

"I'd seriously doubt whether you're going to see any congressional investigations or anything like that," Smith said.

Black Elk has some blemishes on its record, according to the federal government.

A search of the web site of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement showed Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations, LLC paid a penalty of $307,500 on September 11, 2012. The fine involved a surface controlled sub-surface safety valve (SCSSV), being used as a tubing plug while not having been tested for leakage at the required intervals.  When it was tested it was found to be leaking more gas per minute than allowed, according to BSEE's Civil/Criminal Penalties Program.

We also found accident investigation reports from August of this year and February 2011.

"Nobody ever likes to see a fire or an accident offshore, but we've got 4,000 platforms out there and something will break, guarantee you, once a year that nobody thought about," said Smith.

Thursday, while in New Orleans to announce the record breaking $4 billion in fines against BP, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he hoped it would resonate industry-wide.

"I hope that this sends a clear message to those who would engage in these kinds of reckless and wanton conduct that there will be a significant penalty to pay, and that individuals in companies who are engaged in these kinds of activities will themselves be held responsible," Holder said.

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