Could it happen again?

Here’s a video showing what went wrong with the blowout protector during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, with clear animation and a suitably dramatic narration. This was created by the United States Chemical Safety Board to accompany their scary report that starts out:

The blowout preventer (BOP) that was intended to shut off the flow of high-pressure oil and gas from the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico during the disaster on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig on April 20, 2010, failed to seal the well because drill pipe buckled for reasons the offshore drilling industry remains largely unaware of, according to a new two-volume draft investigation report released today by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB).

The blowout caused explosions and a fire on the Deepwater Horizon rig, leading to the deaths of 11 personnel onboard and serious injuries to 17 others. Nearly 100 others escaped from the burning rig, which sank two days later, leaving the Macondo well spewing oil and gas into Gulf waters for a total of 87 days. By that time the resulting oil spill was the largest in offshore history. The failure of the BOP directly led to the oil spill and contributed to the severity of the incident on the rig.

And there are warnings:

Robert Bea, a professor of engineering and expert in oil pipelines at the University of California Berkeley, praised the report and said blowout preventers are like cruise ship lifeboats, used only in last resort but crucial. In this case, and potentially in some others still out there, a blowout preventer may be ‘deeply flawed’ or full of holes, said Bea, who was not involved in the new study. [emphasis added]


‘The problems with this blowout preventer were worse than we understood,’ safety board managing director Daniel Horowitz said in an interview. ‘And there are still hazards out there that need to be improved if we are to prevent this from happening again.’

The safety board, like the National Transportation Safety Board, can investigate but has no regulatory power. It recommended new safety standards and regulations in its report.

If the offshore oil drilling industry doesn’t adopt them and regulators don’t tighten up oversight of these devices, it ‘opens the possibility of another catastrophic accident,’ lead investigator Cheryl MacKenzie said at a news conference Thursday.

There’s more at the HuffPo link and way more at the CSB website, including a the full report. I finally understand just went wrong down there. Transocean and BP blamed each other, BP plead guilty to 12 felonies and both companies were fined millions. As noted above, 11 men lost their lives, and so many families shattered. Not to mention the incalculable damage to the Gulf of Mexico.

Roy Wyatt Kemp
Blair Manuel
Dewey Revette
Shane Roshto
Jason Anderson
Aaron Dale Burkeen
Donald Clark
Stephen Curtis
Karl Kleppinger
Adam Weise
Gordon Jones