Blowout preventers used in ALL deep water drilling are “fundamentally flawed by design” — Maddow

Foreign Policy’s Steve LeVine explains, “The itsy-bitsy problem that doomed BP’s well“:

In a new report prepared for the U.S. Interior Department, though, we get good news and bad news. The good news is that the blowout preventer does what is suggested in the photos and accompanying charts. The bad news, according to the 551-page report by Det Norske Veritas, a Norwegian risk management company, is that it only does so in photographs and charts, and not in real-life crises such as the Macondo blowout. (Here is volume 1 of the report. Here is volume 2).

The industry and even the Interior Department want to apply dispersant to this problem so that no one sees it, but it is simply too important a matter to let that happen.

Now none of this is really news — see my May 2010 story, Stupak stunner: Oil well’s blowout preventer had leaks, dead battery, design flaws, “How can a device that has 260 failure modes be considered fail-safe?”

Still, this new Interior report should be a wake-up call to the industry and the Gulf Coast.  Here’s Maddow’s must-see story, in which she notes, “The Interior Dept. is not happy with our coverage of this issue. And you know what? I’m glad”:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Kudos to Maddow for staying on the story.

Here’s more from Levine:

In the case of Macondo, the intense pressure of the blowout bent the well pipe, and pushed it out of position. And when the mighty sheers were activated, they could not close entirely. It was through that “not entirely” — a 1.4-inch diameter opening, according to the Wall Street Journal that much of the oil flowed. Read on for more details.

This modest report suggests that the industry consider the impact of a discombobulated pipe on “the ability of the blowout preventer components to complete their intended design or function.” It proposes that “the findings of these studies should be considered and addressed in the design of future blowout preventers and the need for modifying current blowout preventers.”(The blowout preventer image … is from the Christian Science Monitor)

Over at the Journal, Ben Casselman and Russell Gold get the message synthesized by Elmer Danenberger, who in 2009 retired as the Interior Department’s overseer of U.S. offshore drilling rules:  “They have to rethink the whole design.”

In fact, this conclusion is not a surprise. As Casselman and Gold note, the oil industry has known for many years that the blowout preventers work in only a fraction of accidents, and that they have been

prone to failure, especially as drilling has moved into deeper water, requiring thicker, tougher pipe. In 2004, a study commissioned by federal regulators found that only three of 14 newly built rigs had blowout preventers that could squeeze off and cut the pipe at the water pressure likely to be experienced at the equipment’s maximum water depth.

Slumber well, Gulf Coast residents — or at least that’s what the industry hopes you’ll keep doing.

8 Responses to Blowout preventers used in ALL deep water drilling are “fundamentally flawed by design” — Maddow

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    Thanks, Rachel, that was a great show you did on this.

    The oil industry must have known about this little problem. They are showing incredible stupidity and self destructiveness by ignoring this information. Maybe they figure they’ll just use more dispersants the next time it happens.

    This is another illustration of the kinds of people who are running this country. Their out of control greed has made them stupid, too.

    Meanwhile, why hasn’t the Obama Administration acted on this information, and suspended deepwater drilling until this problem is solved? Do Halliburton and BP’s beancounters have more influence in DC than everybody else put together?

  2. jcwinnie says:

    Operative word is “should” as in “this should be be a wake-up call.”

  3. BBHY says:

    Remember that by law, the drillers liability for a spill is limited to $75 million. So spending lots of money to use blowout preventers that actually work is a waste of money as far as the driller is concerned.

    When combined with almost non-existent government regulation, the limited liability makes spills a complete certainty.

  4. Joce13 says:

    Does anyone know if the this type of blowout preventer is also used in Canada?

  5. 350 Now says:

    I repeat my call to climate hawks to contact MS-NBC to either extend Rachel Maddow’s show to two hours and have one full hour dedicated to science (and when applicable, how it relates to politics) or to have a separate stand alone show to do this.

    During the Japan nuclear disaster, her coverage was remarkable and cogent and she is doing a tremendous national public service by covering the USDI report on the blow out preventers. The public needs this information to determine the truth and consequences about deep water drilling.

    She is a rare jewel of a journalist in a box of otherwise cheap gawdy costume decorated info-tainers found at Faux News.

  6. Greg Pallast piles on the agony for the polluters:

    Dispatches UK TV Greg Palast Drills Deep into BP

    Isn’t it time to rename the the blowout preventer as the blowout provider or the bullshit product.

    Whatever, it seems Obama is cowed by the dark forces of oil and coal. Was he another groomed for the job. How many up and comings are being prepared for the future in both the red and the blue camps. Time for an alternative party.

  7. paulm says:

    “TOKYO — In planning their defense against a killer tsunami, the people running Japan’s now-hobbled nuclear power plant dismissed important scientific evidence and all but disregarded 3,000 years of geological history, an Associated Press investigation shows.”

    Human inability to estimate risk. Or is that to ignore risk. Note, this is more a male thing really. If females had more representation in these decisions, many of these idiotic projects would not have gotten off the ground.

  8. paulm says:

    Lies, dam lies, and risk….