ººººººººº Gulf Oil Spill: Who's to Blame? BP, Halliburton and the Feds Are All Implicated
Federal oversight of oil drilling rigs and platforms in the Gulf is intense; the Interior Department’s Mineral Management Service inspectors often travel between drilling sites, proactively checking up on documentation and procedures. However, the Wall Street Journal has dug into a story that suggests that Fed oversight failed at a much earlier point.
Undersea drilling is immensely complicated, so the MMS is also involved in permitting the various equipment used. From the WSJ:
Federal regulators learned in a 2004 study that a vital piece of oil-drilling safety equipment may not function in deep-water seas but did nothing to bolster industry requirements … The equipment, called shear rams, is supposed to seal off out-of-control oil and gas wells by pinching the pipe closed and cutting it.
In 2004, a study commissioned by the MMS raised significant questions about the ability of rams to cut through the stronger pipes used in deep-water drilling. Those thicker pipes—as well as the shear rams—must withstand the enormous pressures found at 5,000 feet below sea level …
Only three of 14 newly build rigs had blowout preventers that were able to squeeze off and cut the pipe at the water pressure likely to be experienced at the equipment’s maximum water depth, the study noted.