Friday, September 3, 2010

Another explosion, and “lessons learned”

Can life get any more ironic than Mariner Energy Inc.’s Gulf of Mexico production platform exploding the same day BP PLC issued a report about lessons learned from the Apr. 20 Macondo well blowout, rig explosion, and crude oil spill? I don’t think so.

The good news from the latest event is that 13 workers are safe after evacuating the Mariner platform, only 1 of whom was injured. Almost all of them got into insulated suits which protected them as they waited 2 hours in very cold water before being rescued. The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement has begun an investigation, with help from the US Coast Guard. Democratic leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have requested a briefing on what happened by Sept. 10.

BP senior executives, meanwhile, submitted a 46-page, 4-color report entitled “Deepwater Horizon Containment and Response: Harnessing Capabilities and Lessons Learned” to BOE Director Michael R. Bromwich, who requested the information on Aug 5.

“The nature of the Deepwater Horizon incident – including the scope, scale, and complexity of the response – has driven large capability advances for the oil exploration industry as a whole,” it began. “These new capabilities should be an integral part of an improved planning and response regime for industry, government and other responders. We believe it is valuable to document them even as our response efforts continue. These advances can serve as part of an initial discussion on how to institutionalize the increased capabilities and ensure that they can be readily mobilized in addressing a marine oil spill of any size.”

The report said that these new capabilities and responses could be grouped into 4 general areas: collaboration, because a broad range of stakeholders came together to respond and develop new solutions; systemization, because extensive new systems, procedures, and organizational abilities had to be developed to adapt to changing and unique conditions; information, which had to be timely and reliable for better decisions, safer operations, and more timely reports to stakeholders and the public; and innovation.

In this last regard, said BP, “the result has been a series of developments, ranging from incremental enhancements to step changes in technologies and techniques that have advanced the state of the art and laid the foundation for future refinements as part of an enhanced regime for any type of source-to-shore response.”

Bromwich said that BOE will share the report with other officials in the US Department of the Interior, as well as other appropriate federal agencies, and that he and his staff members will continue to seek additional information and clarification as they carefully review BP's report. The discussions are part of BOE’s ongoing work to evaluate current deepwater drilling safety, containment, and response procedures as it works to strengthen all aspects of offshore regulation, he indicated.

Separately, Bromwich announced on Sept. 3 that he will hold the final of his 8 fact-finding forums on offshore drilling safety reforms, well containment, and oil spill response on Sept. 13 in Lafayette, La. It could be one of BOE’s livelier sessions.


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