Oil lobby killed safeguards on Gulf drilling rig


Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

The oil well spewing crude into the Gulf of Mexico didn’t have a remote-control shut-off switch used in two other major oil-producing nations as last-resort protection against underwater spills.

The lack of the device, called an acoustic switch, could amplify concerns over the environmental impact of offshore drilling after the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig last week.

The accident has led to one of the largest ever oil spills in U.S. water and the loss of 11 lives…

U.S. regulators don’t mandate use of the remote-control device on offshore rigs, and the Deepwater Horizon, hired by oil giant BP PLC, didn’t have one. With the remote control, a crew can attempt to trigger an underwater valve that shuts down the well even if the oil rig itself is damaged or evacuated…

Nevertheless, regulators in two major oil-producing countries, Norway and Brazil, in effect require them. Norway has had acoustic triggers on almost every offshore rig since 1993.

The U.S. considered requiring a remote-controlled shut-off mechanism several years ago, but drilling companies questioned its cost and effectiveness, according to the agency overseeing offshore drilling. The agency, the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service, says it decided the remote device wasn’t needed because rigs had other back-up plans to cut off a well.

What that means in plain and simple English is that the Oil Patch Boys bought enough politicians and bureaucrats to stop regulation.

The U.K., where BP is headquartered, doesn’t require the use of acoustic triggers.

An acoustic trigger costs about $500,000, industry officials said. The Deepwater Horizon had a replacement cost of about $560 million, and BP says it is spending $6 million a day to battle the oil spill…

RTFA. Lots of history, lots of detail. You do the math!

It’s been decades since I left the offshore oil drilling industry – but, I stay in touch with the tech. This is a drilling rig which could have had better safeguards. Industry payoffs made the difference.

7 thoughts on “Oil lobby killed safeguards on Gulf drilling rig

  1. moss says:

    Why do people assume that Americans have the best tech? Clearly – even if we invent stuff – it will not be implemented if cost-benefit analysis overrules safety requirements. Not when Wall Street/corporate mavens own the lawmakers.

    Norway’s been putting safe systems into North Sea oil rigs which face more dangerous conditions than the Gulf – for over a decade. They’re making plenty of money from the oil they pump.

    The greedy bastards on our side of the pond are never satisfied with how much they make!

  2. wok3 says:

    Americans often have fantastic tech, and more importantly, the lobbyists to ensure that they are not required. Regrettably, safety is for sale.

  3. KirtHunt says:

    I have a possible solution for stopping the flow of oil from the well off the coast of LA. Its just a thought that i felt could be explored. It might be possible to construct a balloon type structure and insert it into the hole closest to the well head. And after insertion it could be inflated to seal off the flow……

    Just a thought running through my mind….and there again, I only made it through 1/2 of the engineering classes with a passing grade 🙂 !!!

  4. isochroma says:

    What a beautiful leak – twenty thousand barrels of lovely lube a day. I love the oily mass that bulges outwards from a bent pipe. A brown Rorschach blot of the automobile culture.

    An endless orgasm of brown to win the King’s crown. The ejaculate of Hell sent by the wind-whipped swell.

    My most fervent hope is that all efforts to stop and mitigate this masterwork are failures. The incontinent flow of hydrocarbons shall continue for the decay of all.

    I would love to see a sea of greasy Devil’s blood flowing into the ocean forever more. The spew that flew right on through.

    Then the World can move on into its next phase, the Dark Phase of death, decline and destruction. Soon, all the works of humans will decay and so too will themselves be brought to the altar of slaughter, to account for their crimes of existence.

  5. isochroma says:

    The oilmass grows like a joyous cancer full of many new kinds of life. Welcome to happy motoring.

    It’s time to drive to a slicker, browner future: put your keys in the ignition because Big Oil needs your dollars to make more oily art – gorgeous rainbow-coloured sheens to embarrass the likes of Van Gogh and Matisse.

    For those who have already contributed, thank you for your kind support!

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