Deepwater Horizon Movie Recounts Several Safety Missteps

Deepwater Horizon Movie Recounts Several Safety Missteps
Deepwater Horizon movie recounts safety missteps onboard the offshore rig, which set the stage for several reforms.

In the six years since the Macondo well blew up the Transocean-owned Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 crew members, both the oil and gas industry and the government have pushed through a bevy of regulations designed to prevent such a disaster from ever happening again.

The federal government introduced a range of new regulations, including those focused on safety, potential conflicts of interest and equipment. While the feds worked through the bureaucracy, the industry acted to increase coordinating between rigs and onshore support, as well as equipment and personnel checks and balances.

For its part, well owner BP plc, has spent billions of dollars in clean-up and settlement costs to coastal states, businesses and individuals. In September, the Alabama Legislature weighed how best to allocate its $1 billion settlement fund, and Mississippi will have $2.2 billion to spend on state services. 

Meanwhile, the federal government and its offshore drilling program in the Gulf of Mexico is moving forward. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has announced a sale in New Orleans in March to offer roughly 47 million acres offshore Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama for exploration. It will be the twelfth such bidding process. The previous 11 sales have netted more than $3 billion in offshore exploration and production (E&P) investment. 


With the Sept. 30 release of the Mark Wahlberg film, Deepwater Horizon, Rigzone revisited the changes in how offshore oil and gas companies operate.

Deepwater Horizon Incident Spurs Several Safety Reforms

Immediately following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, there was an increased focus on health, safety and the environment (HSE) in the industry.

“The industry definitely got more safety-conscious,” Barbara Denson, director of origination for environmental firm Weston Solutions, commented after watching a pre-screening of the Deepwater Horizon movie. “I saw a huge increase in the number of regulations – both offshore and general.”

The Obama administration has implemented several regulatory reforms since April 2010, when the incident occurred. Federal agencies, including the Department of Interior’s (DOI) Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), have made efforts to enhance the safety and environmental protection of an industry whose image was marred by the spill.


Public perception of the oil and gas industry after the Deepwater Horizon incident also suffered. Denson shared that she felt like people outside of oil and gas didn’t like the industry and she felt bad for the BP workers who couldn’t wear their work jackets out in public for fear of being vilified.

“The incident wasn’t just one person making a mistake. It was a whole series of things that went wrong,” she said. “You could see over and over that it could have been stopped. There were policies in place. They had safety procedures. And one after the other … they were just ignored.”

Denson said though the industry has important safety measures in place, as per the movie, the missteps onboard the rig began when those measures were disregarded.

“The workers – all of them had on the appropriate ear protection, eye protection and fire retardant clothing. They had all the stripes showing areas where you aren’t supposed to walk beyond. The workers seemed very aware of what the safety concerns were,” Denson said. “The movie showed workers asking why they were doing certain things that weren’t safe. It’s not like people weren’t trained and did not know. In the movie, those concerns were just being ignored.”

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Generated by readers, the comments included herein do not reflect the views and opinions of Rigzone. All comments are subject to editorial review. Off-topic, inappropriate or insulting comments will be removed.
DB | Oct. 3, 2016
I have worked in the oil & gas industry, on the drilling, work-over and completion side, for 43 years. After roughnecking through college, I started out as a drilling engineer, on the very first, state of the art, dynamically positioned drillship (1974), drilling offshore Burma and Thailand. Safety first, was always, of the utmost concern!! The major issue, was the dropping of the sub-sea, BOP stack (when hanging in the moon pool), due to an electrical shortage, that released the BOPs, from the marine riser package. The stack was found, partially buried in the mud line and eventually recovered. From there I worked as a drilling engineer, drilling foreman, contract drilling supervisor and drilling superintendent, for operating companies, offshore and land, stateside and internationally. The operating company, well site supervisor, is the person in charge of the operations. This person, has the full authority to suspend any and all operations, due to safety concerns, well design and well integrity, effecting, human lives, health, environment. The well site supervisors, deal directly with management, sometimes, taking operations upon themselves, to proceed ahead, to save time, money and make themselves look good. Offshore rig operations, involve many people, where-by, just about anyone, has authority to shut down an unsafe, non-understandable, or, questionable, procedure. There is an ole saying the well talks to you, indicates a well problem and/or, control issue, will happen, if current operations continue forward. The biggest factor, in well control, is human error!!!

Ed Armstrong | Oct. 1, 2016
The cement job on the long string failed. A bond log was run and showed the cement fell back downhole. Instead of shooting squeeze holes, then pumping cement behind the casing and re-running the bond log,the genius company men and tool pushers decided to displace the 14ppg weight mud with sea water, why then was it a surprise when the well came to see them?

Rob St Ledger | Oct. 1, 2016
I pose a question and it is this ......... have we seen the last preventable catastrophe,post Macondo? Do all the new post Macondo changes to regulations protect us from another catastrophe? My answer is clearly. No. The oilfield is in a terribly depressed state these days and when the price of oil decides to improve and stimulate more rig activity,then the oilfield will be a dangerous place to be! Many very experienced personnel will not return to the industry through retirement,new profession or just not ready to risk their livelihood again,knowing only well that at anytime the price of oil can collapse again. So we then see a new oilfield full of new young people,all keen and eager to make a buck! We better ensure that these people are well and truly properly trained BEFORE flying out the true rig,and I dont just mean the obvious of HUET,BOSIET survival skills. I am referring to understanding,competency and the individuals power to shut the job down if unsafe! If you need to know more of my thoughts on this please email me.

Nick A Horsburgh | Sep. 30, 2016
There was inplace Standard Operating Procedures but they were ignored. Normal good oilfield practice was not the norm for this operation and many others at that time. It take s a incident like this to wake people up but after 6 years I am sure many operations are back to the bad old ways due to lack of diligence by the personnel.

Been There | Sep. 30, 2016
I worked in the industry and that rig for many years. It wasnt just BP that did it, alot of others did to. Since then , the safety practices have been followed by the major companies. Its the smaller companies that need to be closely monitored to.


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