Macondo Incident Made Mark on Oil, Gas Technology

Except for the blowout preventer (BOP) design in general, lack of adequate technology was not a major contributing factor to the Deepwater Horizon incident, Hans Bratfos, global innovation leader, DNV GL Oil & Gas, told Rigzone. Instead, procedural matters caused technology such as the cementing of the well to fail.

Nevertheless, the Deepwater Horizon incident did leave a mark on oil and gas technology.

In response to the Macondo incident, in which the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig was involved, oil and gas companies have elected to automate and systematize more safety-related processes including management of change, safety audits and inspections, and rig and environmental incidents, such as chemical spills and releases, said Gary McDonald, president of environmental, health and safety software firm EHS Insight, in a statement to Rigzone.

New technologies make integrating systems and creating dashboards, reports, and workflows easier than ever. Leveraging those technologies, companies now have more insight into events taking place in operations, in real-time, than before, McDonald stated.

The oil and gas industry has come a long way in terms of developing well capping and containment technology, and BOP and remotely operated vehicle (ROV) technology has also improved since Deepwater Horizon, Satish Nagarajaiah, professor of civil and mechanical engineering at Rice University, told Rigzone. He believes that advancements in sensor technology could help oil and gas companies detect and block when a kick in a well occurs.

Advances in sensor technology are now allowing operators to more accurately measure the condition of BOPs, Alan Turner, senior concepts developer with Lloyd’s Register, told Rigzone. These new technologies are switching the balance of power of response to people performing the day-to-day operations, Turner stated. Software has and is also advancing better ways to access pressure and helping to improve faster and more accurate ways of determining and analyzing data from the BOP to ensure safety.

“Fiber optic sensing technology, and particularly fiber optic strain gauges, have evolved to a point where industry can derive real-time operating data of what is happening inside a BOP by installing sensors on the outside shell,” Turner commented. “With this knowledge, signal patterns are then used to access degradation of the BOP functions and any failures.”

Monitoring the BOP from the outside offers the advantage of gathering data through a system that can be interfaced with risk-based integrity management software and smart monitoring systems that analyze real-time control variances and trends, Turner said.

“This provides operators, contractors and regulators with a risk-based and transparent decision-making tool for safer drilling, as well as immediate and consistent communications between all stakeholders in the event of a subsea BOP equipment failure,” Turner commented.

Following the incident, Don Van Nieuwenhuise, director of professional geoscience programs at the University of Houston, told Rigzone he is seeing industry pursue using drilling tools with borehole seismic to predict pressure as far as 3,000 feet ahead of the drillbit to try and predict pressure kicks. While the ram system used with BOPs works, he sees room for improvement in making the parts better.


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