Deepwater Horizon Investigation Findings Will Spur Calls for Modified Blowout Preventer Design

Last week, a technical investigation into the Transocean-owned oil rig explosion last year found that a piece of the drill pipe had blocked the blowout preventer, thereby causing the failure of the preventer. These findings are likely to increase calls for a change in the design of blowout preventers. The blowout preventer on the well has been at the center of investigations into the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico last year that killed 11 workers and injured several others. A technical investigation that was completed last week found a piece of the drill pipe had blocked the blowout preventer, causing it to fail and leading to one of the worst maritime disasters in modern times. The investigation was sponsored by the federal administration, and found that the preventer's blind shear rams activated at the time of the accident, but failed to block a section of the drill pipe that probably moved when the well went out of control. Not surprisingly to maritime attorneys, doubts about blowout preventers have already begun. This week, Rep. Ed Markey, Democrat-Massachusetts said that the technical report calls into question the role of blowout preventers in preventing disasters like the Deepwater Horizon explosion. He called for an immediate and complete discussion on the design and effectiveness of the blowout preventers that are currently being used in American waters. However, the report is not likely to slow down the pace of issuing permits for deep water drilling at the Bureau of Offshore Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. The agency has just begun issuing permits for deep water drilling, and has already issued quite a few of them since the end of a moratorium on deepwater drilling imposed last year after the explosion.

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