Understanding, Managing, and Living with the

Health Effects of Asbestos

Major Oil Drilling Enterprise References Drilling Mud Lawsuits in Q2 Report

October 13, 2014

Houston, TX It is no surprise that asbestos, long used as a heat retardant for its excellent insulating properties, would be used on drilling rigs in order to keep drills and other drilling apparatus cool to avoid catastrophic breakdowns and other failures. Amongst the allegations contained in many a drilling mud lawsuit is that mud engineers and other oil rig workers were not made aware of the dangers associated with asbestos, and that employers failed to provide guidance or protective gear to spare their employees certain harm over the long term.

One such employer pursued by many a mud engineer is Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc., (Diamond) a major force in the offshore drilling industry with a fleet of 44 offshore drilling rigs, consisting of 32 semisubmersibles, seven jack-ups and five dynamically positioned drillships, four of which are under construction.

Diamond has been targeted in several lawsuits. In June of this year, the company referenced its drilling mud problem and various positions in its Form 10-Q filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for its second quarter (Q2) filing as of June 30 of this year.

“We are one of several unrelated defendants in lawsuits filed in state courts alleging that defendants manufactured, distributed or utilized drilling mud containing asbestos and, in our case, allowed such drilling mud to have been utilized aboard our offshore drilling rigs,” the company states in its report. “The plaintiffs seek, among other things, an award of unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.”

According to documents related to the Q2 filing, Diamond goes on to say that in its estimation it is not liable for issues relating to Murphy Exploration & Production Company, an enterprise acquired by Diamond in 1992. The defendant further holds that it is not liable for damages related to asbestos drilling mud allegedly related to Diamond M Corporation after a 1989 asset purchase of that company.

Diamond further states that “we filed a declaratory judgment action in Texas state court against NuStar Energy LP, or NuStar, the successor to Diamond M Corporation, seeking a judicial determination that we did not assume liability for these claims. We obtained summary judgment on our claims in the declaratory judgment action, but NuStar appealed the trial court’s decision, and the appellate court has remanded the case to trial.”

Drilling mud can be a death sentence

Various drilling mud lawsuits have asserted that mud engineers and other employees were not aware that drilling mud contained asbestos. Drilling mud often arrived in powdered form in large sacks. It fell to the mud engineer to mix the powder with water to produce the drilling mud in the correct consistency and texture. Various plaintiffs have testified that they were made to work in an environment where there was asbestos drilling mud dust everywhere from the powder, and that no guidance or protective gear was provided.

It has been oft alleged by previous and current plaintiffs that the composition of drilling mud - more often than not containing asbestos in the decades prior to falling ill and filing a drilling mud lawsuit - led to grievous health issues. Asbestos is a cunning killer, often lurking undetected in an individual’s body for upwards of 30 years or more before erupting into asbestosis, asbestos mesothelioma and/or asbestos cancer.

There is no cure. The drilling mud engineer, faced with the aftereffects of drilling mud chemicals, has little choice but to wait out his days supplemented by oxygen, and hoping to live long enough to see compensation for his pain and suffering, and medical bills.

While asbestos was an oft-used product for insulation and other uses tied to the industrial revolution, there is evidence to suggest that knowledge and awareness that asbestos carried carcinogenic properties dates as far back as the early 1900s. Drilling mud companies routinely used asbestos in their well drilling mud.

Such drilling mud chemicals translated to a delayed death sentence for many a drilling mud engineer, who’s only hope now is to see his medical bills paid and his family receive peace of mind through compensation.