December 26, 2010
Macondo Horizon Drilling Rig Events

If you want to understand how the events in Transocean's Deepwater Horizon led to the disaster and lives lost read this long New York Times piece. From blowout to explosion was 9 minutes. This report tells the story from the perspectives of many participants. Worth reading.

The result, the interviews and records show, was paralysis. For nine long minutes, as the drilling crew battled the blowout and gas alarms eventually sounded on the bridge, no warning was given to the rest of the crew. For many, the first hint of crisis came in the form of a blast wave.

The paralysis had two main sources, the examination by The Times shows. The first was a failure to train for the worst. The Horizon was like a Gulf Coast town that regularly rehearsed for Category 1 hurricanes but never contemplated the hundred-year storm. The crew members, though expert in responding to the usual range of well problems, were unprepared for a major blowout followed by explosions, fires and a total loss of power.

They were also frozen by the sheer complexity of the Horizonís defenses, and by the policies that explained when they were to be deployed. One emergency system alone was controlled by 30 buttons.

I am reminded of the comments made after the Three Mile Island nuclear plant accident about overly complex control systems. The nuclear power industry changed a great deal due to TMI. I hope the same happens with offshore drillers as a result of the Horizon accident and loss of life. So many things went wrong and so many safety systems failed that the failure speaks to something much deeper than mistakes made by a single crew or oil company. They need to learn from this accident the way the airline industry has learned from the succession of aircraft accidents over a period of decades.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 December 26 02:56 PM  Dangers Complex Engineering

LarryD said at December 27, 2010 6:33 AM:

I'd suggest an analog to the Transportation Safety Board, which has worked well, but I'm afraid Washington would mess it up. Very badly.

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