Comments and Excerpts:

As offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere boomed, a 2003 report warned that the industry wasn't taking time to find and fix the problems that commonly plagued blowout preventers - the fail-safe mechanisms designed to stop oil spills such as the one now threatening the Gulf Coast.

Though the recent BP/Transocean accident's cause remains unknown, an apparent malfunction of the blowout preventer, which sat on the wellhead beneath 5,000 feet of water, has allowed more than 200,000 gallons of oil to escape daily, creating a massive spill.

The 10-page report suggests that the industry was so focused on drilling that it was willing to pay higher maintenance costs to keep rigs operating and avoid downtime rather than address some of the fundamental problems with the blowout preventers.

"Floating drilling rig downtime due to poor BOP (blowout preventer) reliability is a common and very costly issue confronting all offshore drilling contractors," the report said, adding that every major disruption could cost $1 million.

The report said the reliability issues were directly related to the fact that drilling companies didn't have detailed design and functional specifications to give companies that manufactured blowout preventers.

The preventers were being rushed into the field with limited testing, and if one malfunctioned, the pressure to keep drilling meant it was fixed with little time spent trying to figure out what had caused the malfunction.

"Because of the pressure on getting the equipment back to work, root cause analysis of the failures is generally not performed," the report said. "In many operations, high maintenance is accepted as a necessary evil to prevent downtime."

To get an idea of the size and scale of this oil spill - click here for the images from NOAA

Click the link BELOW to download this PDF Report (1 Meg PDF)

Terrence O'Hanlon

Terrence O’Hanlon, CMRP, and CEO of Reliabilityweb.com® and Publisher for Uptime® Magazine, is an asset management leader, specializing in reliability and operational excellence. He is a popular keynote presenter and is the coauthor of the book, 10 Rights of Asset Management: Achieve Reliability, Asset Performance and Operational Excellence. www.reliabilityweb.com

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