A “litany of flaws” still plagues the devices offshore oil drillers in the Gulf of Mexico rely on to prevent blowouts like the one that exploded BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig in 2010, according to findings by the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board. The Board’s findings potentially mean key risks that contributed to the BP oil spill – the largest environmental disaster ever to hit the U.S. – are still in place.
The Chemical Board’s report, which focused on BP’s blowout preventer or “BOP,” is one of a number of ongoing federal safety and industry investigations of the BP spill and the factors that led up to it, such as poor management decisions, misreading key data, and other shortcomings.
The BOP is installed at the well head and serves as the last line of defense in keeping a tapped well from gushing out of control.
In its report issued last week, the Board said that some “post-incident changes” have been made to BOP devices, but stressed that “deficiencies identified during the failure analysis of the Deepwater Horizon BOP could still remain undetected in BOPs currently being deployed to well heads.”
The Board also concluded that both BP and Transocean failed to treat the BOP as a key safety component in their drilling venture.
“Most importantly, the operational and organizational factors that are necessary for an efficient functioning of this system, the BOP, have to be defined, actually monitored and verified in order to have an effective management of risk in this system,” said Rafael Moure-Eraso, the Board’s chairman, in a statement about the findings.
Additionally, a technical arm of the Board’s BOP investigation found that the “blind shear ram,” a part of the device that clamps down on the pipe with two giant cutting blades, probably did activate on April 20, but failed to stop the flow because the pipe had been disfigured by pressure changes leading up to the blowout.
Board investigator Mary Beth Mulcahy said that the “sequence of events that led to the failed shearing of the drill pipe could happen again,” even to the most responsible and safety-oriented drillers.
The Board said that “there are a lot of changes to be made” in current offshore operations to make sure the series of events that resulted in BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster do not happen again.