Analysis: Deepwater drilling in deep trouble

Analysis: Deepwater drilling in deep trouble

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When an explosion ripped through BP's Deepwater Horizon rig, it not only cost 11 workers lives and created an environmental disaster of unheralded proportions, it also sent Shockwaves through the oil and gas industry. The true impacts are unknown, but one thing is for sure: the industry will never be the same again. When the rig sank two days after the explosion it left oil gushing from ruptured pipes. The Blow-Out Preventer (BOP) that was supposed to seal the well in the event of an incident like this failed to operate, leaving an estimated 5,000 barrels of oil a day gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. The BOP contains mechanisms designed to shut off the flow of oil and gas, either on command or automatically, when required or when a wellhead is damaged or experiences a blow-out. Investigators are trying to find out why the BOP atop the Deepwater Horizon well failed to activate as designed. The surface operation moved on with well-practised ease as the tried and tested combination of controlled oil burns, spraying chemical dispersants, and protective booms did their work. But it was below the ocean waves that the troubles were mounting. The Deepwater Horizon well sits in 1,500m of water. Although the procedures that were attempted to cap the well had worked in shallow waters they have never been tried at this level.

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