US safety chiefs to publish Deepwater Horizon disaster report ahead of UK oil and gas industry briefing in Aberdeen

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EXCLUSIVE by Scottish Energy News Safety Correspondent

Oil & Gas UK – the industry trade association has issued new guidelines on Blowout Preventer (BOP) operations for offshore wells to improve cross-industry understanding of ‘well-related safety issues’ following BP’s Deepwater Horizon blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico – just three weeks before the US industry safety board publishes its report into the disaster.

Four years ago, the (US) Congress, launched an independent investigation with a broad mandate to examine not only the technical reasons that the incident occurred, but also any possible organisational and cultural causal factors, and opportunities for improving regulatory standards and industry practices to promote safe and reliable offshore energy supplies.

In addition to providing UK operators, drilling and well service companies and other duty-holders active in UK well operations with the latest industry guidance for operating subsea BOPs, issue 2 includes guidance for offshore surface BOPs.

Oil and Gas UK

Oonagh Werngren, Operations Director, Oil & Gas UK, said: “The publication of this document is an excellent example of what can be achieved through collaborative work across the industry.

” It demonstrates the commitment of Well Life Cycle Practices Forum (WLCPF) members, together with the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), to continually reviewing and improving safety and performance in all aspects of well practices.”

WLCPF, a permanent body coordinated by Oil & Gas UK which emerged as the UK industry’s response to the lessons arising from the Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico, will outline the evolution of well practices and highlight the latest updates on both BOP and well integrity guidelines at its Industry conference on June 11-12 in Aberdeen.

The session will include input from the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) following their four year investigation post Deepwater Horizon disaster in April 2010.

The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is due to publish the first two volumes of its four-year long investigation into BP’s Deepwater Horizon tragedy at a public meeting on 5 June in Houston, Texas.

Speaking last night exclusively to Scottish Energy News, Rafael Moure-Eraso, Chairman of the US Chemical Safety Board, said: “The fourth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy and environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was on 20 April 2014.

“The death and destruction of that day are seared in our consciousness. The forthcoming CSB investigation report has a singular focus: preventing such an accident from happening again.

“Eleven people lost their lives and many others were injured in this disaster, and oil and other hydrocarbons flowed uncontrolled out of the well for months after the explosion on the rig, owned and operated by Transocean under contract with BP.”

The comprehensive Chemical Safety Board investigation of the Macondo well blowout is in the final stages of completion and the first two volumes are planned to be released at a public meeting in Houston, Texas on 5 June 2014.

CSB Chairman Moure-Eraso added: ” Going beyond other previously released reports on the accident, these new reports explore issues not fully covered elsewhere, including: 

  • The publication of new findings concerning the failures of a key piece of safety equipment—the blowout preventer— that was, and continues to be, relied upon as a final barrier to loss of well control. 
  • A comprehensive examination and comparison of the attributes of regulatory regimes in other parts of the world to that of the existing framework and the safety regulations established in the US offshore since Macondo.  
  • In-depth analysis and discussion of needed safety improvements on a number of organizational factors, such as the industry’s approach to risk management and  corporate governance of safety management for major accident prevention, and  workforce involvement through the lifecycle of hazardous operations.
Recommendations will be included in the various volumes of the CSB’s Macondo investigation report.
Volume 1 will recount a summary of events leading up to the Macondo explosions and fire on the rig, providing descriptive information on drilling and well completion activities. 
Volume 2 will present several new critical technical findings, with an emphasis on the functioning of the blowout preventer (BOP), a complex subsea system that was intended to help mitigate and prevent a loss of well control. This volume examines the failures of the BOP as a safety-critical piece of equipment and explores deficiencies in the management systems meant to ensure that the BOP was reliable and available as a barrier on April 20, 2010. 
Later in the year, the board will consider report Volume 3 which will delve into the role of the regulator in the oversight of the offshore industry. Finally, Volume 4 will explore several organisational and cultural factors that contributed to the incident. 


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