Tonight, Rachel Maddow stayed after the story in which I played a small part last night…that subsea blowout preventers (BOPs) cannot reliably contain deepwater blowouts. Apparently, the Department of Interior is unhappy with her coverage of this story, but I believe she is correct in shining a bright light on this issue. Currently, the US government is issuing deepwater drilling permits to operators that contract with drilling rigs that are using the very same BOPs that failed on BP’s Macondo wel, with no fundamental change to deepwter drilling procedures or equipment. The only changes to regulatory requirements that have been made are training and inspection certifications…for devices that are now proven to be inadequate for containing a blowout. No fundamental redesign has been directed or even contemplated by the government.
As my regular readers know, for months, I have been calling for a fundamental redesign of these well control devices to lower the risk of deepwater blowouts that are virtually impossible to control once hydrocarbons enter the wellbore. Rachel is laser focused on this issue, and for good reason. In its report, Det Norske Veritas (DNV), the Norweigan risk management company hired by Interior to study the Deepwater Horizon BOP, reached the conclusion that redesign of subsea BOPs must occur and that a number of questions about their reliability must be answered; the firm documented numerous issues about the Horizon BOP and called for industry review and redesign to make subsea BOPs safe. Interior is apparently ignoring these recomendations and issuing permits to resume drilling with the same equipment. Here’s Rachel’s segment on this issue broadcast tonight: