CSB reports unrecognized pipe buckling contributed to Macondo oil spill

This story was updated June 5.

An incident similar to the 2010 deepwater Macondo well blowout and resulting oil spill still could occur, the US Chemical Safety Board reported June 5 in releasing its investigation findings into the 2010 incident.

CSB called for better safety management by oil companies and regulators concerning drilling equipment, and CSB investigators identified a type of pipe buckling that they called effective compression.

The blowout preventer (BOP) on the Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible drilling rig on Apr. 20, 2010, failed to seal the well because of this buckling, CSB said in a two-volume draft investigation report released June 5.

The report concluded that, under certain conditions, the effective compression phenomenon could compromise the proper functioning of other BOPs being used worldwide.

“Although both regulators and the industry itself have made significant progress since the 2010 calamity, more must be done to ensure the correct functioning of [BOPs] and other safety-critical elements,” said Rafael Moure-Eraso, CSB chairperson.

The Macondo blowout caused explosions and a fire on the Deepwater Horizon semi, killing 11 people. The semi later sank, leaving the Macondo well spewing oil and gas into Gulf of Mexico waters off Louisiana for 87 days.

The CSB report said pipe buckling likely occurred during the first minutes of the blowout and that the BOP’s blind shear ram attempted to cut the pipe, but the pipe buckling prevented the shear ram from cleanly cutting and sealing the pipe.

“The shear ram actually punctured the buckled, off-center pipe, sending huge additional volumes of oil and gas surging toward the surface,” the report said.

Miswiring, batteries failures

CSB reported two instances of miswiring and two backup battery failures affected the electronic and hydraulic controls for the BOP’s blind shear ram.

A comprehensive examination of a full set of BOP testing data was made available to the CSB team that was unavailable to other investigative organizations. The blowout followed a failure of the cementing job to temporarily seal the well, and a series of pressure tests were misinterpreted, the report said.

CSB Investigator Cheryl MacKenzie noted Macondo was a high-pressure well, which likely contributed to how the drill pipe buckled and moved off-center within the BOP, preventing the well from being sealed.

Effective compression occurs when there is a large pressure difference between the inside and outside of a pipe, MacKenzie said.

“The CSB’s model differs from other buckling theories that have been presented over the years but for which insufficient supporting evidence has been produced,” said CSB investigator Mary Beth Mulcahy, who oversaw the technical analysis. “The CSB’s conclusions are based on real-time pressure data from the Deepwater Horizon and calculations about the behavior of the drill pipe under extreme conditions. The findings reveal that pipe buckling could occur even when a well is shut-in and apparently in a safe and stable condition. The pipe buckling–unlikely to be detected by the drilling crew–could render the BOP inoperable in an emergency.”

CSB reports ‘safety gaps’

CSB’s investigation found the Deepwater Horizon crew regularly tested and inspected BOP components necessary for daily drilling operations, neither Transocean nor BP performed regular inspections or testing to identify latent failures of the BOP’s emergency systems.

“Safety-critical BOP systems responsible for shearing drill pipe in emergency situations and safely sealing an out-of-control well were compromised before the BOP was even deployed to the Macondo wellhead,” the report said.

The report also noted that the BOP lacked the capacity to reliably cut and seal the 6-5/8-in. drill pipe used during most of the Macondo drilling before Apr. 20.

Despite the multiple maintenance problems found in the Deepwater Horizon BOP, CSB investigators ultimately concluded the blind shear ram likely did close, and the drill pipe could have been successfully sealed but for the pipe buckling.

The draft report, subject to board approval, makes numerous recommendations to the US Department of Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), the federal organization established following the Macondo accident to oversee offshore safety.

These recommendations call on BSEE to require drilling operators to effectively manage technical, operational, and organizational safety-critical elements to help reduce major-accident risk to an acceptably low level.

“Although blowout preventers are just one of the important barriers for avoiding a major offshore accident, the specific findings from the investigation about this BOP’s unreliability illustrate how the current system of regulations and standards can be improved to make offshore operations safer,” MacKenzie said.

The report also proposes the American Petroleum Institute revise API Standard 53, Blowout Prevention Equipment Systems for Drilling Wells, and provide new guidance for management of safety-critical elements in general.

Moure-Eraso said, “Drilling continues to extend to new depths, and operations in increasingly challenging environments, such as the Arctic, are being planned…. To maintain a leadership position, the US should adopt rigorous management methods that go beyond current industry best practices.”

Two forthcoming volumes of the CSB’s Macondo investigation report are planned to address additional regulatory matters as well as organizational and human factors safety issues raised by the accident.

CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB does not issue citations or fines but makes safety recommendations.

The American Petroleum Institute later reacted strongly about the report. API spokesman Brian Straessle said, “There is nothing here that hasn’t already been exhaustively addressed by regulators and the industry. We are still reviewing the parts that CSB has decided to release, but the report appears to omit significant facts and ignores the tremendous strides made to enhance the safety of offshore operations. As the co-chairs of the Presidential Oil Spill Commission recently said, offshore drilling is safer today because industry and the government have enhanced spill prevention, containment and response, implemented new standards and rules, and focused on strong safety culture.”

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

Related Articles

WAFWA: Aerial survey finds lesser prairie chicken population grew

07/06/2015 A recent range-wide aerial survey found the lesser prairie chicken population rose 25% from 2014 to 2015, the Western Association of Fish & Wil...

Production ramps up from Sunrise oil sands project

07/06/2015 Husky Energy Inc., Calgary, reported that 25 well pairs are now on production at its Sunrise oil sands project in northeastern Alberta. Steaming is...

Buru awarded onshore Canning licenses

07/06/2015 Buru Energy Ltd., Perth, and Mitsubish Corp. have been granted two production licenses for Ungani oil field in the onshore Canning basin of Western...

Cenovus sells royalty business for $3.3 billion

07/06/2015 Cenovus Energy Inc., Calgary, inked an agreement to sell its wholly owned subsidiary Heritage Royalty LP to Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan for gros...

CERI: Energy, operational efficiencies possible in Canadian oil, gas

07/06/2015 Measures can be taken by operators in the expanding resource-intensive Canadian oil and gas sector to improve both energy efficiency and operationa...

AGL Energy to scale back upstream gas operations

07/06/2015

Gas retailer AGL Energy Ltd., Sydney, says it will exit the oil business and massively scaling back its upstream gas operations.

Macondo settlement seen ‘positive’ for BP

07/06/2015 BP Exploration & Production Inc.’s recent agreement to settle federal and state claims related to the 2010 Macondo blowout and spill improves t...

Court to EPA: Costs matter

07/06/2015 Oil and gas groups did not respond immediately when the US Supreme Court ruled on June 29 that the US Environmental Protection Agency acted unreaso...

Statoil installs subsea wet gas compressor at Gullfaks

07/06/2015 Statoil SA installed what it is calling the world’s first subsea wet gas compressor at its Gullfaks C platform offshore Norway. By compressing at t...
White Papers

2015 Global Engineering Information Management Solutions Competitive Strategy Innovation and Leadership Award

The Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global...
Sponsored by

Three Tips to Improve Safety in the Oil Field

Working oil fields will always be tough work with inherent risks. There’s no getting around that. Ther...
Sponsored by

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by

7 Steps to Improve Oil & Gas Asset Decommissioning

Global competition and volatile markets are creating a challenging business climate for project based ...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts

On Demand

OGJ's Midyear Forecast 2015

Fri, Jul 10, 2015

This webcast is to be presented by OGJ Editor Bob Tippee and Senior Economic Editor Conglin Xu.  They will summarize the Midyear Forecast projections in key categories, note important changes from January’s forecasts, and examine reasons for the adjustments.

register:WEBCAST


Predictive Analytics in your digital oilfield - Optimize Production Yield and Reduce Operational Costs

Tue, Jul 7, 2015

Putting predictive analytics to work in your oilfield can help you anticipate failures, plan and schedule work in advance, eliminate emergency work and catastrophic failures, and at the same time you can optimize working capital and improve resource utilization.  When you apply analytic capabilities to critical production assets it is possible to reduce non-productive time and increase your yield.

Learn how IBM's analytics capabilities can be applied to critical production assets with the goal of reducing non-productive time, increasing yield and reducing operations costs.

register:WEBCAST


Cognitive Solutions for Upstream Oil and Gas

Fri, Jun 12, 2015

The oil & gas sector is under pressure on all sides. Reserves are limited and it’s becoming increasingly expensive to find and extract new resources. Margins are already being squeezed in an industry where one wrong decision can cost millions. Analyzing data used in energy exploration can save millions of dollars as we develop ways to predict where and how to extract the world’s massive energy reserves.

This session with IBM Subject Matter Experts will discuss how IBM Cognitive Solutions contribute to the oil and gas industry using predictive analytics and cognitive computing, as well as real time streaming for exploration and drilling.

register:WEBCAST


The Alternative Fuel Movement: Four Need-to-Know Excise Tax Complexities

Thu, Jun 4, 2015

Discussion on how to approach, and ultimately embrace, the alternative fuel market by pulling back the veil on excise tax complexities. Taxes may be an aggravating part of daily operations, but their accuracy is crucial in your path towards business success.

register:WEBCAST


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected