Report: Faulty Design Caused Blowout Preventer Failure

The blowout preventer (BOP) that could have stopped the BP oil spill failed because of faulty design and a bent piece of pipe, said a testing firm in a 551-page report that appears to shift some blame away from British Petroleum.

March 23, 2011  --  The blowout preventer (BOP) that could have stopped the Deepwater Horizon oil spill failed because of faulty design and a bent piece of pipe, said a testing firm in a 551-page report that appears to shift some blame for the disaster away from British Petroleum and toward those who built (Cameron International) and maintained (Transocean Ltd.) the 300-ton safety device.

The report by the Norwegian firm Det Norske Veritas (DNV) is not the last word on the April 11, 2010, accident, which killed 11 workers and allowed more than 200 million gallons of oil to spew from a well a mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico.

The report casts blame on the BOP’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 Deepwater Horizon incident, the shear rams couldn’t do their job because the drill pipe had buckled, bowed, and become stuck, according to DNV.

The report also suggests 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.

In response to the report, Cameron spokeswoman Rhonda Barnat said the BOP “was designed and tested to industry standards and customer specifications.” She added, “We continue to work with the industry to ensure safe operations.”

In its own statement, Transocean said the findings “confirm that the BOP was in proper operating condition and functioned as designed. High-pressure flow from the well created conditions that exceeded the scope of BOP’s design parameters.”

DNV’s tests also indicated that some back-up control system components did not perform as intended, and recommended the industry revise its procedures for periodic testing of back-up systems.

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