The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Deepwater Rigs Pass Inspections

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted May 18, 2010

A few days after the Deepwater Horizon explosions and fire, Interior Sec. Ken Salazar ordered Minerals Management Service (MMS) personnel to inspect 30 deepwater drilling rigs and their blowout preventers (BOPs).

Specifically, they were instructed to:

  • Perform a thorough inspection of each rig
  • Pay particular attention to the BOP tests, leaks and resolution, discrepancies and repairs
  • Ensure that well-control drills were being performed in accord with regulations

The findings demonstrated the fitness-for-duty of the deepwater drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the inspectors' report, only one Incident of Non-Compliance (INC) citation and three warnings were issued:

  • The Development Driller II received an INC because it had not tested its BOP from both the rig floor and a remote station located elsewhere on the rig. The rig crew was ordered to alternate control stations for BOP testing in the future.
  • The Transocean Nautilus was given three warnings for having "some flammable material" in the welding room's scrap metal bin (the material was removed), having a 6" X 12" hole near the mud pump section pipe (a grate was placed over the hole), and for having expired bottles of eye wash (the eye wash bottles were replaced).

While there's no excuse for any regulatory errors on drilling rigs or production platforms, it's important to put the inspectors' findings into perspective. There 90 drilling rigs working in the Gulf, and 30 are in deepwater areas.

There also are approximately 3,500 production platforms in Gulf federal waters and hundreds of oil and natural gas operations in state waters. Nearly 1,000 of the platforms in federal waters are manned. At any one time, about 35,000 workers are drilling or producing energy in the Gulf.

For the people of the oil and natural gas industry, safety and environmental protection are paramount. As we've stated here before, the industry's goal is zero accidents, zero injuries and zero fatalities. Since unprecedented Deepwater Horizon tragedy, the industry has redoubled its commitment to that goal.