The New York Times ran an article today on the failures of the blind shear rams on the Deep Horizon.
Feel free to read the article… all nine pages of it. While the reporting is fantastic and the journalists clearly worked their tails off to get this story, I can’t help but wonder, is the media still questioning why we are all having a hard time understanding this? Simplify.
So consider this the cliff notes to the lengthy article, but please in no way think I am taking credit for unearthing ANY of this information. Merely sharing it in an easier to understand format.
See we were all told deep sea drilling was safe, because the oil companies had systems to protect us; systems to keep our oceans safe, to keep their employees safe, to keep our aquatic life and the people who depend on them for their livelihood, safe!
There were many things that went wrong on April 20, but the biggest failure was that of the blind shear ram. To put it simply the blind shear ram is a last line of defense, which, when working properly, is set to slice the pipe and seal off the well, locks then move into place preventing the pistons from moving backwards, closing the well forever.
But as we all know, that didn’t happen.
Because it seems that no one was really sure that it would ever work in the first place. The rams were a single point failure system, meaning that it took one small valve to clog for the whole system to be rendered ineffective. In fact a private and confidential study done by Transocean, the company that owned the rig, showed that these back up systems had a 45% failure rate.
Chew on that. The last line of defense to keep millions of gallons of crude oil from destroying our oceans only works 55% of the time…
Forget about repairing them even if the agency did find that there could be a possible issue. Stopping operations on a rig costs $700/minute.
Yeah, none of this makes sense to me either.
The good news is most of the rigs in the ocean have two blind shear rams on board. A back up to the back up. But not the Deep Horizon.
Transocean, and the company renting it, BP, seem to disagree on the subject.Transocean claims that was BP’s decision. BP states it was a joint one. But that wouldn’t have had room for two anyways. A point that many experts disagree with.
And the federal agency that regulates the safety of these rigs, and the effectiveness of these back up systems, Minerals Management Service, really wasn’t doing a good job of holding BP or Transocean responsible.
BP applied for, and was issued, a permit to drill last year. Frank Patton, an engineer with the Minerals Management Service issued that permit. Without ever ensuring that the blind shear ram on the Deep Horizon was functioning. In fact Mr. Patton states that in all his years of training he was never told to actually check that.
Banging your head against your computer screen yet?