It has been confirmed that the blowout preventer that should have stopped the BP oil spill failed because of a faulty design and a bent piece of pipe. A testing firm hired by the government announced its findings last month. This means that Cameron International and Transocean, the two companies that built and maintained the 300-ton safety device, will share with BP and others in the blame for the disaster. At least one outside expert believes the findings cast serious doubt on the reliability of all the other blowout preventers used by the drilling industry.
The report by the Norwegian firm Det Norske Veritas (DNV), while certainly not the final word on the disaster, does help answer one of the unanswered questions. 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 question is … why? 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. The report indicates that the shear rams couldn’t do their job because the drill pipe had buckled, bowed and become stuck.
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 also 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.
The blowout preventer on the BP well was raised from the seafloor in early September and testing began at a NASA installation in New Orleans in November. Representatives for Cameron and Transocean were among a large group of interested parties that were allowed to monitor DNV’s examination of the device. BP, the Justice Department and lawyers for Claimants also were allowed to monitor the testimony. But none were allowed any hands-on involvement. As we previously reported, BP has asked a federal judge for permission to conduct additional testing of its own. But Cameron has objected, saying any further testing should be done by a neutral party.
An investigation into what caused the rig explosion and oil spill is being overseen by a joint panel of the Coast Guard and the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement. The panel is scheduled to release a final report this summer assigning blame for the disaster. I suspect all of the companies having responsibility for the oil spill will start pointing fingers at each other. Thus far they have been “joined at the hip” and have allowed BP and the Gulf Coast Claims Facility to deal with the Claimants.
Source: Associated Press
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