Last night I finally took the time out to watch Deepwater Horizon, Peter Berg's "kinda cool" 2016 movie on the eponymous disaster that no one in the oil industry can ever forget. Some people have complained that the movie used too much jargon to be cinema comfortable, but in my opinion, it was all necessary to show how the real impact was not due to the blowout itself, but the destruction of the entire rig resulting from a failure in operation, activation and working of several integral safety and defense systems. Even that "techie talk", as it has been called on some platforms, could not fully explain the complete scenario, and with my techie antenna tingling, I decided to do some online research on the incident.
One of the prominent questions in my mind was why the 54 feet blowout preventer, installed for the express purpose of staving off the sudden, uncontrolled release of oil and gas from a well, failed to do its job. The New York Times article appearing immediately after the tragedy and telling the entire horrifying story with astounding detail shows us that there were mistakes (that, in lack of a disaster, would probably have been minor enough to go unnoticed) at every step of the way: from ignoring ominous negative pressure test results to well trained crew members failing to respond accurately and immediately due to no previous example of anything other than minor and major kicks from the well before, and hesitation in fear of overreaction. We also cannot forget that Macondo was known as the "well from hell" before it blew up, so the tricky geological puzzles of the region also made for one unprecedented situation.
They say if you asked 50 experts why the Deepwater oil rig blew up, you will get 50 different answers. Clearly, it was a confluence of events, and not one single thing; but the one area pretty much everyone agrees on was the issue with the cement pour at the bottom of the well, which often leads people to reprimand BP for cutting corners. But even when at least one crew member testified to pushing the emergency shut down button, why did the blind shear ram fail to close the well and prevent a large scale disaster? Was it instrumental damage? Was it lack of surveying with regards to proper maintenance? Was it human error? Or was it, by that time, simply too late?
Perhaps we shall never know who or what is truly at fault, but let the assignment of blame be the objective of courtrooms and settlement meetings. Even after extensive regeneration efforts, strategies and plans, experts predict that in several ecological and natural ways, the Gulf will never be the same again. The tragedy of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill serves as a reminder of their responsibility to all working and aspiring professionals of the oil and gas industry, and as an example of the enormous domino-like impact even slight mistakes can have in our chosen vocation. It is on our shoulders that the weight of this incident rests in the end, because it is upto each and every one of us to understand the paramount importance of safety and prudence "on the job" and ensure that such history is never repeated.