Friday, July 22, 2011

Deepwater Horizon Investigation Updates

There's been a multitude of investigations into the Deepwater Horizon / Macondo Blowout and I figure I'd summarize where we're at.

There's broad agreement between all the reports on the facts (with a few minor exceptions), but each one puts different emphasis on which actions were most important.

Transocean's Report came out not too long ago. Watch this video; it's excellent.

I liked most of Transocean's report. There were only a few howlers in there. Transocean endorses the maintenance as good practice (I'm personally not so sure; scheduled maintenance is perfect for turbines {things with well defined MTBF's}, but not great for something with weird failure modes like a BOP). They also say that the AMF/"Dead Man" fired successfully within an hour of the initial blowout (doubtful, but not impossible, according to the Det Norske Veritas report), but the blind shear rams failed to seal. The DNV report said the shear rams were closed days later by ROV intervention, which TO says 'closed the rams further.' Both agree the off-center drillstring was to blame for the failure to seal. The other big howler in TO's report is the treatment of fast rescue craft.

Transocean praises the Fast Rescue Craft from the Bankston (used to pluck multiple casualties from the water), but TO never mentions that the Horizon was never fitted with a FRC mostly to save space and money. The regulations allowed them to get away with this because they designated one of their large, slow, unwieldy lifeboats as their rescue craft, despite the fact that they are incapable of performing an injured swimmer pickup. There are some drawbacks of FRC's, but for a vessel the size of the Horizon, in my opinion as an engineer, the omission constitutes a design blunder. Had the Damon Bankston not been on the scene, there would be more than 11 dead.

USCG/BOEMRE almost finished, but won't meet deadline

The National Academy of Engineering has a draft report out, but the final report is still being worked on.

The Chemical Safety Board has another investigation they're working on. Note that they've gotten very, very little cooperation from anyone offshore, because nobody wants the CSB to have purview over offshore. The CSB is a funny little organization. They've got no enforcement powers, their reports are generally not (directly) admissible as evidence in courts, but they're packed with some really brilliant PHD's and do wonderful reconstructions of events:

CSB Video of Texas City.

I love engineering disaster books. Love 'em. I picked up the book the CSB head put together about Texas City and was so disgusted with BP's management I couldn't finish it, that's how in-depth it was.

More notes:

But medical records kept under seal....

All of these investigations reaching slightly different conclusions is a GOOD thing. It means we'll actually learn something and the 11 lives weren't lost for nothing.

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