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The economy and culture of Texas have been shaped by the major oil booms our state has seen over the past century. From the “gusher age” spanning the first 40 or so years of the 1900’s to the 1970’s energy crisis, to the post 9/11 changes in global oil trade, Texas oil has played a major role in the wealth of our state and our nation. The Texas oil industry has even shaped other major industries at home and abroad.
San Antonio is an interesting case when it comes to the oil industry. The city and the surrounding region have a high volume of drilling activity, and that comes with a high number of oilfield and oil rig accidents. San Antonio and the neighboring cities and towns have a unique combination of factors that have led to this climate of substantial oil drilling, including legislation, geography, topography, and industry practices.
Based on the number of oil field accidents that Texas citizens have experienced over recent years, it’s highly likely that you or someone you know has been injured on the job in the oil field. Perhaps even you have suffered on the job injuries in the oil field. Injuries on oil rigs are often extremely severe due to the dangerous nature of the equipment, risk of fire and explosions, toxic chemicals and substances, and precarious heights at which people work. All of these dangers can leave victims with lasting injuries, pain, and changes to quality of life in the short or long-term. Victims of oilfield accidents & injuries need a personal injury attorney experienced in oilfield and oil rig accident cases. Thompson Law has decades of combined experience in fighting for justice and just compensation for clients who have suffered oilfield accidents due to the error and negligence of other individuals and corporations. If you need help getting the recovery you deserve, call the 4’s and get native San Antonio attorney Ryan The Lion Thompson on your side!
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What’s Special About San Antonio’s Oil Industry?
Many people think of West Texas when they picture oilfield activity, with its vast deserts spanning through Midland, Odessa, Alpine, Marfa, Terlingua, and beyond El Paso to the rest of the Southwest. However, there are oil rigs all over the state of Texas, even in the North Texas or DFW area where Thompson Law was founded.
While regulations may vary from state to state when it comes to fracking, (the process of injecting high-pressure fluid into deep rock formations in order to help extract natural gas, petroleum, and brine), Texas has been famously lenient to the practice. This leniency means that oil and gas enterprises in Texas have multiplied and flourished, so much so that the small town of McMullen, just southeast of San Antonio, was the richest in the United States in 2017 with a an average gross income of $303,717.
In addition to leniency in the fracking industry, Texas is also lenient on labor laws for oil drilling operations. For example, Compass Well Services (with a San Antonio area branch location) has a standard operating procedure of 24-hour shifts for workers. While this may seem extreme, very long hours are very common in the oil field industry. It is therefore not uncommon that drowsiness and sleep deprivation are culprits for accident & injuries in the oil industry.
With this combination of dangerous factors, as well as the geographical richness of the area, there is certainly a wealth of industry around fracking and drilling in San Antonio. The high volume of oil extraction and related activities may largely be attributed to the presence of huge corporations like Valero Energy Corporation (2018 revenue over $117 billion), Ultramar Diamond Shamrock Corporation, and over 80 other oil & gas companies that call San Antonio home.
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San Antonio Drilling Locations
In addition to legislation and industry, the land itself around San Antonio has proven to be a gold mine for extracting oil. San Antonio is one of the state’s largest drilling regions. People may think more of the Permian Basin – the largest oil field and second-largest natural gas field in the United States – when they envision the epicenter of the oil industry. However, San Antonio’s location is distinct from this formation and offers up a different reserve of oil-rich topography. The Eagle Ford Shale wraps around the south side of San Antonio toward and past Austin, stretching across 26 Texas counties in the process. It is about 50 miles wide, 400 miles long, averages 250 feet thick, and is buried deep in the earth between 4,000 to 12,000 ft. The brittleness of the material that makes up the shale provides an ideal composition for the use of fracking in the extraction process. By the same token, the shale has an aspect of volatility and heat absorbency that exacerbates the dangers inherent in fracking practices.
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Dangers on Any Oil Rig Site – San Antonio and Beyond
While the San Antonio region may be unique in many ways, there are similarities in the dangerous working conditions associated with drilling sites across the state of Texas and beyond.
The most terrifying of these job site risks is the possibility of sudden death. San Antonio News 4 published a story in 2016 about a string of suspicious and unsatisfactorily explained deaths that occurred on job sites. Workers across age ranges and onsite occupations were being mysteriously found dead on their shifts, often with death attributed to heart failure or other heart-related issues. Researchers dug deeper into the events and found that fumes were the real culprit for these tragedies. To “thief” the tank or “thieving the hatch”, workers would open large storage tanks for checks or sampling of the contents as a requirement before further processing. As a result of opening the tanks, these workers were exposed to a dangerous combination of chemicals that proved overwhelming and fatal.
The South Texas Energy & Economic Roundtable (STEER) offered a statement for the article, which in the context of the breadth of the tragedy felt woefully inadequate. STEER provided five action items to reduce or eliminate the occurrence of these fatal events, all-around increased education, emphasis on safety equipment, and future goals to eliminate the need for tank gauging activity. The desire for future technology or worker admonishment to wear protective eye-wear feels insufficient, as workers continue to be exposed to toxic and deadly fumes on job sites daily.
In addition to this terrifying risk, other common dangers and causes of injuries on oilfields include:
- High Powered Equipment & Heavy Machinery: Misuse, Malfunction, Product Defects, or Crashes
- Car Accidents in an Off-Road Environment
- Poor Maintenance of Work Equipment, Structures, and Tools
- Oil Tank Explosions
- Fire and Extreme Heat
- Toxic and Noxious Fumes
Injuries from Drilling Sitework
On dangerous work and construction sites, the possibility of injury is virtually limitless. Still, there are some injuries that occur with particular frequency in oilfields and on rigs. In the personal injury cases that oil field accident attorney Ryan L. Thompson and his team have represented, some of the more common injuries include:
- Slips and Falls: Trips and slick surfaces, plunges from heights, loss of balance from heavy loads, et cetera
- Bone Injuries: Broken bones, fractures, joint damage, dislocations
- Head Injuries: Skull Fractures, traumatic brain injury (TBI), concussions
- Neck and Back Injuries: Heavyweight loads, impact injuries
- Spinal Injuries: Tetraplegia, paraplegia, or other forms of paralysis
- Inhalation Injuries: Toxic fumes, smoke from fires, exposure to toxic chemicals
- Burn Injuries: Fires or tank explosions
- Wrongful Death: Nearly any of the above injuries, if severe enough, may be fatal
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Safety Measures in Big Oil
There are still miles to go to achieve completely safe oil drilling and transportation sites. The aforementioned initiatives are steps in the right direction, and with more research, technological improvement, and compliance with safety standards we can only hope that fewer lives are lost – and less harm is done – in this dangerous industry.
One new and significant example is that the Texas Railroad Commission (TXRRC) adopted enhanced safety measures that went into effect on January 6, 2020. Natural gas is a byproduct of oil drilling, so these regulations are highly related with the safety procedures of rig operations. The wells that produce oil often also produce natural gas. So fracking, mining, or otherwise extracting these materials near each other can further complicate the danger inherent in the work for either of these activities. TXRRC’s new regulations prohibit natural gas pipeline operators from installing underground cast iron, wrought iron or bare steel pipelines. Old pipelines constructed of these materials must be replaced by the end of 2021 as well. There are also additional safety inspection requirements for operators and inspectors. The goals of replacing volatile material infrastructure and improving safety inspections are aimed at increasing the Texas oil industry compliance with state law, which ultimately saves lives.
On the federal level, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has dozens of publications on recommendations and requirements for oilfield job sites. Annually, guides for protecting individual workers, as well as guides for executing tasks in the field safely and effectively, are updated and distributed with goals of continuously improving safety, and avoiding the tragic injury and death we have come to expect from work in this field.
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After an Oilfield Accident – Thompson Law is Here for You
Being hurt on the job in an oilfield, rig or drilling accident is no small matter. The exposure to toxicity, dangerous heat, heavy machinery and more can truly leave lasting physical and emotional damage and may continue causing harm with delayed onset injuries long after the time on the job. After suffering pain, trauma, perhaps even the loss of a loved one in a drilling accident, the last thing you need is to deal with red tape and insurance companies. Let Thompson Law do the heavy lifting for you. With over $1.8 billion won for our clients, we have the skills, experience, and tenacity to take on the oil firms and their teams of lawyers and insurance carriers. Call the 4’s to get the help you need after a serious personal injury event. Ryan “The Lion” Thompson is here to fight for you!
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The State of Texas has a statute of limitations of two (2) years for personal injury cases, so if you have been injured in an oilfield accident in the San Antonio area, Texas in general, or beyond, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. The sooner you know your options, the sooner you are on the path to recovery and your deserved compensation. Call the Fours right away for assistance with your injury and claim: (214) 444-4444, (817) 444-4444, (972) 444-4444, or (469) 444-4444. Wherever you are in DFW, just dial 444-4444. THE FOURS are here 4 you!
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