The deepwater horizon explosion was caused by a rapid and abnormal build up in pressure of the marine riser caused by methane gas. Because gasses heat up as the pressure rises, this build up in pressure eventually caused the gas to ignite and explode. Though this sort of problem comes with the territory of drilling for oil, BP failed in various safety aspects which would have otherwise prevented or mitigated the explosion.
Investigators know methane exploded in the pipe to rupture it, but they are still not sure how or why. To learn more about the source of the problem and to learn why the blowout preventer failed, researchers have recently this month pulled the blow out preventer contraption from the ocean. The five story tall, 300 ton contraption was pulled out of the ocean and put on a boat awaiting further research at NASA in Louisiana. Be sure to keep an eye out in the news for any new information. Here is the story as of September 5th.
The Deepwater Horizon disaster was the result of a number of engineering missteps and oversights over the course of a several-month process of drilling a subsea oil well, leading up to a final mechanical failure in the rig’s blowout preventer that resulted in a release of 4.5-5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. In drilling a well to be abandoned for later pumping of crude, BP elected to use a “long string” method to case the well, a method that offers fewer safeguards than more commonly used methods. BP also opted to save costs by using fewer than the preferred number of centralizers to ensure that the piping was centered in the well, thereby preventing contractor Halliburton’s cement job from properly sealing the well. BP chose to save $128,000 by avoiding a cement bond log, which might have detected flaws in the cementing that could have been filled or prompted premature aborting of the drilling program. During the 24 hours leading up to the disaster, managers on board the rig ignored signs that the project was likely to fail, such as the rejection of drilling mud from the well and the release of methane gas pockets. Finally, a still as-yet-unknown mechanical failure took place in the blowout preventer, and the blind shear ram that was supposed to lock the oil undernearth the top of the well failed to secure, and a gas explosion resulted in a massive fire that sunk the rig, tearing it and the riser pipe leading from the seabed to the rig floor away and ripping a hole in the ocean floor that resulted in what is now the largest release of oil ever into the marine environment during peacetime.
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