By JIM POLSON
Flaws in safety equipment and procedures used on Gulf of
Mexico rigs persist four years after 11 workers died in an
explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon that led to the
largest offshore oil spill in US history.
Drillers and regulators misunderstand the limits of blowout
preventers, or BOPs, which are supposed to pinch pipes and
prevent oil and natural gas from escaping a well in an
emergency, the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation
Board said in a report made public on Thursday.
The blowout preventers on BPs Macondo well failed,
causing millions of gallons of oil to spew into the Gulf in
Industry practice and federal safety rules currently in place
in the Gulf may not prevent another catastrophic spill,
according to the report. US regulations fall short of
standards used for drilling off the coasts of Norway,
Australia and the UK, which require more rigorous, regular
and independent safety-equipment checks, the agency said.
Vital aspects of effective safety critical element
management have not been established in the US
offshore, the report concluded. Deficiencies
identified during the failure analysis of the Deepwater
Horizon BOP could still remain undetected in BOPs currently
being deployed to well heads.
Each system in the five-story-tall BOP must be tested
individually so that a properly operating backup system
doesnt mask failure of another, according to the
report. A pre-deployment test of the Deepwater Horizon
blowout preventer failed to reveal that two backup systems
were wired improperly, investigators said.
The government halted deep-water exploration drilling in the
Gulf for five months after the Macondo disaster. The agency
that oversaw offshore drilling was split to improve safety
and enforcement and regulations were strengthened to prevent
Theres nothing here that hasnt already been
exhaustively addressed by regulators and the industry,
Brian Straessle, a spokesman for industry group the American
Petroleum Institute, said in an e-mail. The report
ignores the tremendous strides made to enhance the safety of
The safety board, which typically investigates chemical and
disasters, found that
well-control manuals still in use by BP and Transocean
recommend a procedure that can cause drill pipe to buckle and
jam the blowout preventer, as happened at Macondo.
We respectfully disagree with other findings in the
report, including and especially the CSBs assertions
regarding Transoceans operational and safety
culture, Lou Colasuonno, a spokesman for Transocean,
said in a statement. Ellen Moskowitz, a spokeswoman for
London-based BP, didnt immediately respond to an
e-mailed request for comment.
BP booked $42.7 billion of expenses after the blowout aboard
Transoceans drilling rig. Last month, the London- based
company lost an appeal seeking to erase disputed payments
connected to a $9.2 billion settlement with most private
parties. It still faces as-yet unassessed fines for the spill
The report was done at the request of House lawmakers to
probe the causes of the Macondo disaster.
(Editor's note: The full CSB
investigation report can be read