Gulf oil spill + design flaw in blowout preventer ≠ BP!


Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

The blowout preventer that should have stopped the BP oil spill cold failed because of faulty design and a bent piece of pipe, a testing firm hired by the government said…in a report that appears to shift some blame for the disaster away from the oil giant and toward those who built and maintained the 300-ton safety device…

The report by the Norwegian firm Det Norske Veritas is not the final word on the Deepwater Horizon disaster last April that killed 11 workers and led to more than 200 million gallons of oil spewing from a BP well a mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico.

It helps answer one of the lingering mysteries nearly a year later: why the blowout preventer that sat at the wellhead and was supposed to prevent a spill in case of an explosion didn’t do its job.

The report cast blame on the blowout preventer’s blind shear rams, which are supposed to pinch a well shut in an emergency by shearing through the well’s drill pipe. In the BP crisis, the shear rams couldn’t do their job because the drill pipe had buckled, bowed and become stuck, according to the DNV report.

The 551-page report suggested that blowout preventers be designed or modified in such a way that the shear rams will completely cut through drill pipe regardless of the pipe’s position.

The blowout preventer was made by Cameron International and maintained by Transocean Ltd.

The report suggested that actions taken by the Transocean rig crew during its attempts to control the well around the time of the disaster may have contributed to the piece of drill pipe getting trapped.

“This is the first time in all of this that there has been a clear design flaw in the blowout preventer cited,” said Philip Johnson, a University of Alabama civil engineering professor who did not take part in the analysis. “My reaction is, ‘Holy smokes, every set of blind shear rams out there may have this problem…'”

Speculation on why the blowout preventer failed has persisted during the year since the disaster…

Johnson, the professor, said the report indicates that the blowout preventer had a design flaw that may have gone unnoticed by the entire industry, not just by Cameron.

RTFA if you feel you really need to know how each company’s lawyers attempts to pass the blame along to one or more of the other companies. Predictable.

The only item of substance – aside from laying the blame at the feet of Cameron International and Transocean – is that all the blowout preventers of this type may be potentially faulty. And that had better be changed real soon, folks.

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