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.

South Koreans brave harsh weather for taste of commando life

Over a thousand South Korean civilians braved sub-zero temperatures around the country to take part in boot camps run by a special commando unit, hoping to get into shape and improve their self-discipline.

The boot camps, which run for three days and have been held since 2003, are aimed at “educating” civilians about national security in a country that shares a heavily-armed border with North Korea…

About 250 people, including some high school students, took part in the boot camp at Bucheon, just west of Seoul, one of six run around the country.

Instead of staying warm at home during their winter break, participants wearing camouflage dragged parachutes, underwent training in a tear-gas filled hut and took part in “flying fox” exercises from a wooden tower. The cold was unforgiving, with temperatures hitting 14ºF in Seoul and surrounding areas…

South Korea has a mandatory conscription policy for men, who have to complete 24 months of military service between graduating from high school and turning 30.

The boot camps have been running since 2003 and 18,000 people have taken part. The oldest was a 49-year-old housewife, army officials said…

“After the training, we expect them to live life with hope and challenge themselves, rather than feeling abandoned and frustrated, while thinking about the camp slogan: ‘Make the impossible possible'”…said Lieutenant Colonel Kim Jong-tak.

Some participants said the training had in fact changed their outlook on life.

Once I get out of here, I will be good to my mother. I will be good to my mother and father and willingly help them,” said 15-year-old Woo Seung-yeon.

Otherwise they may send you back, eh?

Surgery requirements: a household drill and one willing skull

Via Telephone, Doctor Gets Instructions on Brain Surgery Using a Household Drill

A doctor in rural Australia used a handyman’s power drill to bore a hole into the skull of a boy with a severe head injury, saving his life.

Nicholas Rossi fell off his bike on Friday in the small Victoria state city of Maryborough, hitting his head on the pavement, his father, Michael, said Wednesday. By the time Rossi got to the hospital, he was slipping in and out of consciousness.

The doctor on duty, Rob Carson, quickly recognized the boy was experiencing potentially fatal bleeding on the brain and knew he had only minutes to make a hole in the boy’s skull to relieve the pressure.

But the small hospital was not equipped with neurological drills _ so Carson sent for a household drill from the maintenance room ….

Carson called a neurosurgeon in the state capital of Melbourne for help, who talked Carson through the procedure _ which he had never before attempted _ by telling him where to aim the drill and how deep to go….

“It was pretty scary. You obviously worry, (are) you pushing hard enough or pushing too hard, but then when some blood came out after we’d gone through the skull, we realized we’d made the right decision,” Tynan told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

I also liked this quote from a BBC video:
“This is a once in a career thing that happens to very few people.”