Archive for August, 2010

Besides cutting through thicker steel, the new blade design – which features a wicked-looking spear in the center – requires less ram force to do the job, allowing use of lighter support equipment, such as smaller accumulator bottles that use compressed gas to slam the valves shut.


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This powerpoint presntation describes industry’s deepwater drilling safety initiatives.  Click to view.

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Gro Brækken

The function-based regulations in Norway allow for continuous development, while at the same time, the operatingcompanies have a very clear and specific responsibility. This means extra quality control in all operations. I have no doubt that this contributes to the high level of safety. Gro Brækken, Director General of the Norwegian Oil Industry Association

This is an important report for BOE’s regulatory philosophers and those who are involved in one of the post-Macondo reviews.  The description of the US regime is not entirely accurate, but this comparison is nonetheless very useful.

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  1. They spent the week fishing (for drill pipe) at Macondo, without much success.
  2. More negative pressure tests have confirmed that the well is dead.
  3. The objectives of the relief well intercept are still a bit of a mystery.  As we have previously discussed, there are other (better?)  means of ensuring that the production casing annulus is plugged.  Is the intercept  just a risky and expensive ceremony?  Not according to BP CEO Bob Dudley who offered the following explanation: “there are several reasons for the relief well to be completed, including demonstrating that the difficult procedure can be done, providing more scientific data about the leak and giving closure to an oil-weary public.” The first and third reasons confirm the “ceremony” theory.  We don’t need to prove that you can complete a relief well, and the public needs solutions, not symbolic gestures. With regard to the “scientific data” argument, the intercept may provide some limited information on the condition of the annulus that will help to better understand the cause of the blowout. Whether that information is sufficiently important to justify the delays and added risks remains to be seen.
  4. The hurricane season continued to be kind.  Will the good luck hold?  While time has been less critical since the well was capped on 15 July and the endgame should not be rushed, we are surprised by the absence of urgency.
  5. We continue to wonder what the response would have been like if the responsible party was not a supermajor.
  6. BP and the Unified Command have still not given us their latest thinking on the Macondo flow path, even though some legislative and regulatory actions are being driven by flow path assumptions and speculation.
  7. Another garbage article about MMS’s “flawed culture” appeared in a major newspaper.  These articles are great theater; too bad their major premise isn’t true.
  8. A few former government officials, who showed little or no interest in offshore safety during their careers, have emerged to criticize the OCS oil and gas program.  Where was the criticism during the 40-year period when all was going well?  Why are the officials who have publicly voiced strong support for MMS personnel not being quoted?  These supportive comments have received almost no coverage.  Also, why are the Inspector General quotes limited to those that paint the worst possible picture of the offshore program and MMS?  These same Inspectors General have praised the overwhelming majority of MMS personnel.  Finally, those calling for more inspectors and other regulatory personnel might want to start by showing some respect and support for the staff that is already onboard.
  9. More silly comments about the evils of “industry standards” have appeared in the press.  BOE will address this nonsense later in the week.

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Since it’s already Monday morning in Oz, our Australian bureau has returned to work and is eager to pass on some news:

  • The sense in Australia seems to be that sensitive regulatory issues delayed the release of the Montara report until after the election (and perhaps much longer if another election is needed to resolve the stalemate).

We received this comment from an oil industry manager in Australia:

The Montara report damns the regulatory agency and there are many that think that is not appropriate.  That is the reason for the holdup.

Comment: I assume the report’s criticism is primarily directed at the Northern Territory regulator.  In defense of the regulators, the current division of responsibilities between the Federal government and the States is unworkable. You can’t have one agency responsible for well integrity and another responsible for rig and facility safety.  The US has similar issues with the division of safety authority among the Departments of Interior and Transportation (pipelines), and the Coast Guard.  If the regulatory responsibilities of the former MMS are not retained in a single bureau, but divided between the two new Interior bureaus, these problems could be exacerbated.  Most of the recommendations in my 11 May testimony before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources have received at least some attention.  One very important recommendation (no. 1) calling for a streamlined OCS regulatory regime, has not been addressed.

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The above photo, which was sent to BOE in an email message, illustrates that BOP tests are not risk free.  Apparently a pipe ram was blown out of the BOP during a stump (pressure) test prior to running the stack.  Fortunately, no injuries were reported.

Also (below), the 36″ conductor casing was flattened when the casing was run without ensuring that it was filled with sea water.

According to RigZone, the West Polaris is working for Petrobras offshore Brazil.

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BOE does not officially resume posting until 30 August, but we wanted to make sure you were aware of Magne Ognedal’s recent remarks to Upstream

“It is very frustrating,” Ognedal said. “We do not have the information we need to finish the job. We know from the transcripts of the inquiry that the Macondo and Montara blowouts appear to have very similar causes.  However we cannot draw any conclusions until we have access to the report.”

I also suggest that you read the text of Magne’s excellent speech during the Safety Luncheon at ONS in Stavanger.

Magne Ognedal Addresses ONS Safety Luncheon

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Gillard quotes Bill Clinton: “The people have spoken but it is going to take a little while to determine exactly what they have said.”

From the rather narrow BOE perspective, post-election uncertainty will likely delay the release of the Montara report even more.  Not good.

Election blog

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Colin Leach brought this paper to my attention: Subsea Accumulators – Are They a False Reliance? As BOP actuation and shearing power issues take center stage, this paper warrants further review.  Unfortunately, we were only able to link the abstract at this time.  We will post the full paper if permission is granted.

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The odd thing about conflicts over wind is that, usually, each side claims to be greener than the other.

Good article in The Economist.

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