Little is known (or at least has been released) about the actual failure of the Blowout Preventer on the Deepwater Horizon. However, a technical paper (2003) has surfaced that may be a “smoking gun” if it is found that maintenance was deferred on the BOP to reduce costs of drilling.

Here’s a link to the paper (Earl Shanks, Transocean, presented at the Offshore Technology Conference, 2003):


Here’s one of the “smoking gun” quotes:

Because of the pressure on getting the equipment back to work, root cause analysis of the failure is generally not performed.”

Ah … a failure to perform root cause analysis to save time (and big bucks) during drilling.

Another quote:

In general, operating reliability (of the BOP) is maintained on rigs mostly through regular maintenance intervals rather than specifying a reliability of a system or a component to minimize maintenance.”

The article also said:

“… this is a very expensive approach, and it is also an opportunity to introduce human error into the system.”

Most of the paper is about ways to improve the design and reliability of Blowout Preventers. But the vultures are circling. And the smoking gun quotes above will mean trouble if it is found that any maintenance was skipped or if the BOP had a poor reliability record.

If maintenance was skipped and/or if the BOP had a poor reliability record, you will hear the cry that BP is once again trading lives (as at the BP Texas City explosion) and the environment (as at the corrosion related oil leaks in their pipeline at Prudhoe Bay). Actually, many don’t need evidence. They will start saying it already!