On October 8th 2018 an amended petition was filed in the District Court of Pittsburg County Oklahoma on behalf of deceased Josh Ray seeking Exemplary Damages in an amount equal to 25% of defendants, Red Mountain, Crescent Consulting, National Oilwell Varco and Patterson's net worth.
Josh Ray was one the five victims killed in the Quinton, Oklahoma drilling rig explosion on January 22nd 2018 in which a Patterson Drilling Rig 219 burst into flames during a trip.
Background Facts Filed on Behalf Of Josh Ray
This suit arises out of yet another tragic preventable incident caused by irresponsible companies working in the oilfield who place money and profit over safety and human life. The owner/operator of Pryor Trust 0718 1H-9 Well was Red Mountain. As the owner/operator of the well site in question, Red Mountain had the ultimate responsibility over all operations that relate in any way to carrying out their well plan including the design of the drilling prognosis, the mud program, and directing and supervising all drilling activities. Unlike other E&P companies, Red Mountain does not have the financial ability to drill its own wells. Instead, Red Mountain operates by drilling wells “OPM” or with other people’s money.
During the summer of 2017, Red Mountain began marketing an Arkoma Basin Opportunity to investors in hopes of raising enough money to be able to acquire mineral interests and to drill a number of wells. They put together a “management team” that included its President, Tony Say, Chief Financial Officer, Koray Bakir, and VP of Engineering Operations, Tim Cummings, and began marketing the economics of the Arkoma Basin Opportunity to various investors.
Red Mountain’s Arkoma project involved drilling wells into the known and recognized Woodford Formation. Dozens and dozens of wells have been drilled and completed into the Woodford Formation in Pittsburg County. Not only was Red Mountain aware of these “off-set wells” but relied on those wells to market to investors the proposed Arkoma project. Incredibly, however, Red Mountain chose to ignore the proven and successful drilling programs of those same “off-set wells” when they prepared the drilling program for the Pryor Well in question. Rather than preparing a drilling program with the mud weight proven to be safe and effective in dozens and dozens of other Woodford Wells, Red Mountain chose to use a significantly lighter mud weight that was cheaper and ineffective to control the well. Unconscionably, for the five men who lost their lives, Red Mountain cared more about its investors’ money than the safety of the men who were drilling this well.
In carrying out the Arkoma Project, Red Mountain hired Crescent, who touted its “over 100 years of combined experience” of providing engineers who “can provide a well plan and execute it throughout every phase of the well by providing experienced consultants to supervise the client’s operations.” Relying on these representations, Red Mountain entered into a contract with Crescent and Crescent assigned Joel Acosta to act as the drilling engineer over the entire project including all engineering services for the well from the design of the drilling program, the well-bore schematic and all engineering decisions made during the actual drilling of the wells. Despite providing all of the engineering advice, consulting and services for the well in question, Mr. Acosta is not a licensed engineer under Oklahoma law and provided engineering services in violation of Oklahoma law.
Despite not being a licensed engineer, Mr. Acosta began engineering the project during the summer of 2017 and began preparing the drilling prognosis. The drilling prognosis not only provides the engineering details of how the well is to be drilled but it also specifies the mud weight that is going to be used in drilling the well. In fact, the mud weight is the most important part of the drilling prognosis as the mud weight is the primary and critical barrier to well control. When designing a drilling program, it is paramount that the drilling engineer choose a mud weight that is capable of controlling any influx of pressures into the wellbore to prevent a blowout. In preparing the drilling prognosis, Mr. Acosta reviewed “off-set” well information on numerous other wells drilled into the Woodford Formation in Pittsburg County to determine the proper procedures to safely and effectively drill the wells. Chief among the information found in the “off-set” well is the mud weight that was used.
Incredibly, Mr. Acosta ignored the heavier mud weight used in successfully and safely drilling dozens and dozens of wells drilled into the Woodford Formation in Pittsburg County. Specifically, the Kim 3-6/7 H Well, Kim 4-6/7 H Well, Kim 5-6/7 H Well, Jody 2-31/30 H Well, Jody 3-31/30 H Well, Roxy 3-20/29 H Well, Roxy 4-20/29 H Well, Roxy 5-20/29 H Well, Pauline 3-24/25 H Well, Pauline 4-24/25 H Well, Emma 2-33/28 H Well, Emma 3-33/28 H Well, Cable 2-13H Well, Cable 3-13H Well, Cable 2-24H Well, Cable 3-24H Well, Carolyn 3-19H Well, Davenport 2-16H Well, Davenport 3-16H Well, Holman 2-29H Well, Jackie 3-18H Well, Kemp 2-18H Well, Kemp 3-18H Well, Krebbs 2-17H Well, Larissa 2-26H Well, Lindsi 2-22H Well, Pamela 2-23H Well, Pamela 3-23H Well, Roger 3-21H Well, Shannon 3-27H Well, Stenner 2-15H Well, Thelma 2-19H Well, Thelma 3-19H Well, and Tonya 3-20H Well are all “off-set” wells that were drilled with mud weights much greater than the mud weight chosen by Red Mountain, Crescent and Mr. Acosta. Tragically, the mud weights used to drill all of these off-set wells were ignored by Red Mountain, Crescent and Mr. Acosta.
In designing a mud program, Red Mountain, Crescent and Mr. Acosta not only reviewed “off-set” well information but they consulted with expert mud companies who employ expert mud engineers trained and qualified to engineer a safe and effective mud program. Specifically, Red Mountain consulted with expert mud companies, Halliburton Energy Services, Newpark Drilling Fluids, Stellar Drilling Fluids, Eagle Drilling Fluids, Anchor Drilling Fluids, M-I Swaco, and NOV and requested that each of these companies based on their expertise in mud to design a mud program for the Pryor Trust 0718 2H-16 Well. Each of these mud companies provided Red Mountain, Crescent and Mr. Acosta with mud programs that called for mud weights well-above the mud weight Red Mountain, Crescent and Mr. Acosta chose to use in drilling the Pryor Trust 0718 2H-16 Well. Incredibly, Red Mountain, Crescent and Mr. Acosta ignored the recommended mud weights provided to them by the expert mud engineers found at Halliburton, Newpark, Stellar, Eagle, Anchor and M-I Swaco. Even more incredible is that Red Mountain, Crescent, and Mr. Acosta ignored the recommenced mud weights that were provided by NOV, the mud company who they hired to engineer the mud program.
Ignoring the mud weights used in dozens and dozens of off-set wells and ignoring the expert mud engineering advice provided by more than a half-a-dozen mud companies, Red Mountain, Crescent and Mr. Acosta chose to drill this well “underbalanced.” They chose to use a mud that was not heavy enough to create a barrier to prevent the influx of pressure into the wellbore. In other words, in ignoring the expert advice and proven safe and effective mud weight used time and time again, they chose a mud weight that would actually allow the well to blow-out.
Why? Two reasons: (1) save money and (2) marketing. Choosing a mud weight that is lighter saves money. In caring more about their investors, Red Mountain chose a mud weight that is cheaper to use, allows the well to be drilled faster, and would protect their money-maker-Formation. Red Mountain also chose to drill this well underbalanced using an old trick out of the OPM’s playbook. When you are drilling with other people’s money and relying on those same investors to fund AFEs on this and other wells, imprudent operators will use lighter mud that allows gas to flow into the wellbore thereby causing a flare. They will then video that flare and send it off to investors during the drilling of the well as a marketing bait to get them to “buy in” or spend more of their investment dollars on the well. In fact, the “OPM” on the Pryor Wells had only committed their investment dollars for four of the twelve proposed wells of the Red Mountain Arkoma project. Indeed, Mr. Acosta used drone footage mixed with music to “hype” and market the project. Videos were taken of 40’ to 50’ flares capturing what they viewed as a “good gas show” versus a giant red flag waiving from an uncontrolled well.
Once Red Mountain was able to get their “OPM” in place, Mr. Cummings and Mr. Acosta were charged with the responsibility to retain various contractors. One of those was the drilling contractor. With the sole intent of carrying out Red Mountain's well plan, Red Mountain voluntarily entered into a Day Work contract with Patterson to drill the well in question. Rather than transferring responsibility and control over the drilling operations to Patterson under a Turn Key contract, Red Mountain mandated the well be drilled under a Day Work basis so that they would have complete control over ALL drilling operations. As such, Red Mountain entered into a drilling contract that expressly provided that the well in question will be drilled under the direction,supervision and control of Red Mountain by and through its company men. Indeed, Red Mountain, further acknowledging its sole responsibility over directing, controlling and supervising all drilling operations, voluntarily agreed to be "solely responsible and assume liability for ALL consequences of operations by both parties." Accordingly, despite Patterson's less than stellar safety record, Red Mountain was solely responsible for and, voluntarily, agreed to assume all liability for the drilling operations that resulted in the loss of five lives.
On January 21, 2018, following the detailed instructions provided by Red Mountain and Brody Blagg, Patterson drilled to a depth of approximately 13,500 feet when it was instructed by Red Mountain, Mr. Acosta and Mr. Blagg to remove or pull (“Trip-Out”) the entire assembly of pipe, its bottom-hole assembly (“BHA”) and the Rock Bit (“Drill String”) out of the well. The mud weight at this time was 8.1 to 8.2 ppg, well below the mud weight used of over 9.0 ppg in the off-set wells, well below what the half-a-dozen mud companies recommended (over 9.0 ppg) and well below what NOV, the actual mud company on the well, recommended (8.8 – 9.1 ppg). During the late hours of the 21st and the early hours of the 22nd, the Patterson crew repeatedly requested Mr. Blagg to increase the mud weight. Even as the well was showing signs of a blow out, these continued calls to “mud-up” to Mr. Blagg were ignored. Instead, Red Mountain, Crescent, Mr. Acosta and Mr. Blagg directed the Patterson crew to trip-out of the hole knowing that the well was not under control and failed and refused to increase the mud weight to get the well back under control. In fact, Red Mountain, Crescent, Mr. Acosta and Mr. Blagg ignored the 40 to 50 foot flare that was occurring as signs of a blow-out, ignored NOV telling them to increase the mud weight and, instead, chose to not increase the mud weight and chose not to take any measures to prevent the obvious signs that the well was blowing out. Unconscionably, in the face of continued and repeated calls by the Patterson crew to increase the mud weight because of the signs that the well was flowing, Red Mountain instructed its company men to “keep the mud weight in their back pocket.”
Because the mud weight used was not heavy enough to control the well,the well began to flow in an uncontrolled manner, and the natural gas was released from the well, it mixed with oxygen in the atmosphere which then ignited causing a well fire. Incredibly, not all of the men who were at the location in charge of supervising and directing all drilling operations, Red Mountain’s company men, were holding valid Well Control Certificates. Despite actual knowledge of well control issues, Red Mountain failed to take necessary steps to control the well. When the well fire ensued, Mr. Ray was trapped in the Doghouse, a building located on the Rig Floor, unable to get out, he burned to death.
Five men tragically lost their lives because Red Mountain, Crescent, Mr.Acosta and Mr. Blagg ignored mud weight data from dozens of off-set wells drilled into the Woodford Formation, ignored engineered mud programs from six other mud companies and ignored the expert advice from NOV, the mud engineer on the well. Instead, Red Mountain chose not only the cheapest mud proposal but the proposal with mud weights far below the mud weights proven to safely and effectively drill dozens and dozens of wells into the Woodford Formation in Pittsburg County. This is a clear example of the inherent problem with an undercapitalized operator who is drilling wells with other people’s money. It is clear that Red Mountain was more interested in trying to collect more money from investors than drilling the well safely. In doing so, they viewed 40 and 50 foot flares as ways to attract investors to invest more money than as a red flag to well control issues.
Negligence and gross negligence alledged in the petition includes, but is not limited to the following:
• Failing to ensure that the drilling operation was conducted in a safe and
• Failing to provide a safe work place;
• Failing to properly supervise the work being done at the time of the
• Failing to ensure that the equipment being used in the drilling operation
was working, was well maintained, in good working order, not defective
and used properly;
• Allowing hazardous conditions to exist at the time of the incident;
• Failing to prepare a reasonably safe well plan;
• Failing to ensure that all workers were properly trained;
• Failing to warn of a dangerous condition on the well site;
• Failing to properly train its company men to supervise the drilling
• Failing to ensure that its company men, who they placed in a position to
control, direct and supervise the drilling operations, were properly trained
and certified in well control;
• Negligently hiring of contractors, employees, and companies to work on
their well site in question;
• Negligently allowing company men with no valid well control
certification to supervise, control and direct drilling operations;
• Failure to develop safety policies and procedures to be implemented on its
well site for the work to be performed;
• Failing to properly supervise the work being performed on the well site in
• Failing to ensure that each company working on its site had a safety
program, properly trained employees; and
• Failing to exercise appropriate stop work authority.