Five years after the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, related to an explosion and series of unfortunate events on the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig, the US Department of Interior (DOI) has proposed stronger regulations regarding offshore drilling safety and oil spill prevention measures.
I’ll admit that, five years ago today, April 14, 2010, I had no idea what a blowout preventer was, much like the rest of the world not involved in offshore oil and gas drilling. However, five years ago one month from now, everyone in the world with an internet connection or a radio is going to know exactly what a blowout preventer is and how it failed so miserably at stopping 210 million tons of crude oil from spilling into the Gulf of Mexico. In case you needed a refresher on the purpose of this 300-plus-ton monstrosity, here’s an informative animation of the failure…
As the video mentions, the blowout preventer was unable to perform its intended function, that is, to stop an oil spill from occurring. It seems that, in ideal circumstances, it could have worked, but real world conditions were not in agreement with the designers’ ideals, leading to a huge failure. Considering that the feds see offshore drilling as an integral part of America’s energy mix, a lot needs to be done to prevent future oil spills, such as that of five years ago.
That being said, the US DOI has proposed a number of updates to regulate offshore drilling and safety, not the least of which has to do with blowout preventer function in extreme circumstances. For example, the blind shear rams can cut through a drill pipe, but not through the 18 inches of pipe connection, and the federal proposal suggests that significant improvements need to be made regarding construction to handle this kind of failure.
On the other hand, here’s my proposal to stop an oil spill, before it even starts: Stop drilling? Is anyone listening?