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Originally posted at Facing South

Despite an army of reporters and officials investigating the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster, one item has curiously escaped much attention: Shell Oil is running a nearly identical "sister rig" in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, which may have the same design flaws that led to the current unfolding disaster.

The Deepwater Nautilus rig was built just a year after Deepwater Horizon, in the same shipyard for the same company implicated in the April 20th catastrophe. It's also drilling in the same Mississippi Canyon prospecting area of the Gulf where Horizon, the ill-fated rig being used by British Petroleum, met its demise.

Horizon and Nautilus were both built by Hyundai Heavy Industries in South Korea for Transocean Ltd., the largest offshore oil drilling contractor in the world. Transocean has its roots in Birmingham, Ala., where it spun off from Sonat, Inc. in 1993. Today -- after a dizzying series of mergers and acquisitions-- Transocean is incorporated in Switzerland, has locations in 20 countries, and boasts an unparalleled fleet of 136 offshore rigs.

With the state-of-the-art Deepwater rigs, Transocean sought to revolutionize the offshore drilling industry. With shallow water oil exploration seeing diminishing returns -- and oil prices still climbing earlier in the decade -- Transocean gave oil companies the rigs they needed to drill deeper and further in the ocean to realize energy profits. By 2007, Transocean had a world-leading 48 deep water rigs that it leased to oil companies like British Petroleum and Shell Oil.

Up until two weeks ago, Transocean's deep-water operations in the Gulf of Mexico seemed full of promise. Last September, Offshore magazine reported that Deepwater Horizon, leased by BP, had set a record by striking oil at the Keathley Canyon block in the Gulf of Mexico at 35,055 feet -- making it the "deepest well ever drilled by the oil and gas industry." BP lauded the feet as a sign of good things to come:

"These material discoveries together with our industry leading acreage position support the continuing growth of our deepwater Gulf of Mexico business ..."

That optimism went up in smoke with Deepwater Horizon's explosion, calling into question the rest of Transocean's offshore projects -- especially Horizon's sister rig, Deepwater Nautilus.

Nautilus is virtually identical to the ill-fated Horizon. Nautilus came first, launched in 2000 and touted to be first in a series of "Fifth Generation Deepwater" rigs that were to lead Transocean's "deeper and further" drilling strategy. Both were made by Hyundai Heavy Industries in Ulsan, South Korea, and their technical specifications read almost like carbon copies.

Nautilus is leased by Shell Oil, which -- like BP with Horizon -- aimed its drills in the Mississippi Canyon prospecting area, located in the central region of the Gulf of Mexico. This past March, Shell announced it had "struck black gold" in Mississippi Canyon blocks 391 and 392 -- just miles to the west of block 252, where Horizon blew and unleashed its spill.

Nautilus' discovery led David Lawrence, Shell's executive vice president of exploration, to enthuse:

This discovery builds on a successful 2009 exploration program in the Gulf of Mexico, where Shell had discoveries at West Boreas, Vito and Cardamom Deep ... Shell has the technology, the expertise and a skilled, motivated workforce to expand oil and natural gas production in the US and worldwide.

But in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the future may not be so rosy for Shell and Deepwater Nautilus.

Given their nearly identical designs, Nautilus may suffer from the same design flaws that destroyed Horizon. For example, one possible explanation for the April 20 blowout is a failure in the "cementing" process that creates a seal between the pipe and the hole drilled into the ocean floor.

Halliburton/KBR has been fingered as the company in charge of cementing for Deepwater Horizon; right now, Transocean's website merely lists "third party" as being responsible for Deepwater Nautilus' cementing.

It's also not clear whether Deepwater Nautilus, like its companion rig Horizon, lacks an automatic "acoustic trigger," a remote shut-off devise required on rigs in Brazil and Norway that some experts believe could have helped stave the release of gushing oil. The Department of Interior doesn't require acoustic triggers; Sen. Ben Nelson (D-FL) of Florida has asked for a review of the agency's policies for requiring additional back-up measures to cap spills.

Facing South's calls to Transocean and Shell Oil were not returned by the time this story went to press.

Concerns about Nautilus are compounded by recent reports of Transocean's checkered safety and reliability record. As the Wall Street Journal reported this week, Transocean's directors decided to forego executive bonuses in the wake of the deaths of four Transocean rig operators in 2009.

Even absent a Horizon-scale catastrophe, Nautilus has already had its share of dangerous incidents in the perilous world of deep-water drilling. In September 2005, Hurricane Rita pummeled Nautilus, sending the rig and its 45-member crew adrift at sea. Harrowing as that was, it wasn't Nautilus' worst scrape with disaster during hurricane season, as the industry website Rigzone reported at the time:

[Hurricane Rita] is not the first time the Deepwater Nautilus has been on the losing end of encounters with powerful Gulf of Mexico hurricanes. In September of last year Hurricane Ivan tore the rig from its Shell offshore location, one hundred sixty miles south of Mobile, Alabama. The rig was later found slightly damaged some seventy miles from its original drilling location. Three weeks ago Katrina sent the rig on another unplanned and unmanned eighty mile voyage leaving rig mooring lines, anchors and 3,200 feet of marine riser pipe on the ocean floor.

The 2010 Atlantic hurricane season starts June and is expected to have a higher-than-average number of storms.

- Chris Kromm

Originally posted to ProgressiveSouth on Tue May 04, 2010 at 07:17 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  these rigs need to stop operating (5+ / 0-)

    while a full investigation into what EXACTLY happened with the Deepwater Horizon runs its course. Its the only solution I can think of. This is the worst environmental disaster in recent memory, and I think it would be prudent to ensure that NONE of these rigs operate until we know how to prevent another gushing geyser of oil.

    You're watching Fox News. OH MY GOD--LOOK OUT BEHIND YOU

    by rexymeteorite on Tue May 04, 2010 at 07:21:11 AM PDT

    •  Especially this Nautilus rig (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It's a carbon copy of the one that went down April 20 and is covering the Gulf with oil. I'm especially curious if it has the same cementing and shut-down design flaws that plagued Deepwater Horizon.

      But when you consider that these two Deepwater rigs were supposed to be the LEADERS in state-of-the-art technology, what does that say about the safety of the REST of the Gulf rigs?

      Blogging for a Progressive South //

      by ProgressiveSouth on Tue May 04, 2010 at 07:33:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree completely that we should halt deep (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        water drilling in the Gulf until better safety procedures are developed.

        However I don't think Nautilus is a particular problem. The Deepwater Horizon Rig isn't what failed. What failed was the blow-out preventer, which is a device in use on all these rigs.

        We clearly need to learn more about what caused this disaster and we also need to learn more about operating at these very deep ocean depths.

        God has no religion. - Gandhi

        by OIL GUY on Tue May 04, 2010 at 08:43:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  And how much are you willing to pay (0+ / 0-)

          for a gallon of gas in the meantime?  

          Me, I think that, until gas prices go MUCH higher, Americans won't change their driving habits and won't lean to use energy more wisely. But that's me.  Many people want their cheap gasoline AND they want to stop risky drilling.  And you can't have both.  

        •  That's definitely true (0+ / 0-)

          There seem to be several theories on what exactly failed. The fact that Nautilus has almost identical specs to Horizon, and is working in similarly treacherous deep-water environments, seems to make it an especially risky candidate.

          But overall I agree with your point, that it's much bigger than one model or type of rig.

          Blogging for a Progressive South //

          by ProgressiveSouth on Tue May 04, 2010 at 09:04:01 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Deepwater Horizon was built in Korea (0+ / 0-)

    Designed originally for R&B Falcon, Deepwater Horizon was built by Hyundai Heavy Industries in Ulsan, South Korea. Construction started in December 1998 and she was delivered in February 2001 after the acquisition of R&B Falcon by Transocean. She was the second rig constructed of a class of two, although the Deepwater Nautilus, her predecessor, is not dynamically positioned.
    Deepwater Horizon was owned by Transocean  and leased to BP  through September 2013. In September 2009, she drilled the deepest oil well in history. Deepwater Horizon sank on April 22, 2010, as the result of an explosion two days earlier.

    Owned and operated by, not built by.

    Here we are now Entertain us I feel stupid and contagious

    by Scarce on Tue May 04, 2010 at 07:22:39 AM PDT

  •  The growing trend of deepwater drilling... (10+ / 0-)

    ...points to the fact that we've exploited most of the easily accessible oil reserves and now have to resort to more extreme and environmentally risky measures to get our fix. It appears our regulatory system has failed to keep up with this reality.

    •  Ding, Ding, Ding. I've Been Saying That For Days (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catte Nappe, OIL GUY, Losty, Sue Sturgis

      If the "liberal" talking heads on TV want to make a point this might be one they bring up. We've kind of already got the oil that is "easy" to get. Now we have to drill deeper into the Earth. Rigs in deeper water in more remote areas.

      From everything I can learn this is a dangerous industry to start with. When the process becomes harder and more difficult the risks increase, therefore the potential for things have this happening more often also increases.

      "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

      by webranding on Tue May 04, 2010 at 07:44:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Speaking of the talking heads...can we get the (0+ / 0-)

        mindless bimbo's(men and women) out of the middle of this. RFK Jr was trying to explain the issues with this rig to the public and Monica Novotny of MSNBC shut him down completely. She was trying to ask a really stupid, irrelevant question.  Could our "talking heads"(I refuse to call them the press), be any worse.  On another note, Luke Russert, looks like he might have some promise as a journalist.

        "When fascism comes to America, it'll be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross." Sinclair Lewis

        by lakehillsliberal on Tue May 04, 2010 at 08:00:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Actually, these rigs are pretty tightly (4+ / 0-)

      regulated.  I have a relative who's worked on the Deepwater Horizon.  If you talked to anybody who has actually worked out there, they will tell you that these offshore rigs have very stringent safety and regulatory aspects that are an integral part of what these workers do every day.  Talk to anybody who has spent any time there, and they will tell you.

      The problem is that this is very very risky stuff.  Drilling is risky (blowouts happen on land, too).  Drilling in water adds to the risk.  Drilling in deepwater adds to the risk. Drilling in very deep formations under the seabed floor adds to the risk.  Unfortunately, of course, that's where the oil is.  There's no way to get to that oil without risk.  

      We don't know what caused this explosion yet, of course.  But it doesn't necessarily have to be some massive regulatory failure.  When you are dealing with that much risk, a screw-up by a few workers, or maybe an unexpected twist of nature (like too much gas coming up -- which is what causes a lot of blowouts), or a combination of the two, can lead to accidents.  As far as I know, design and regulations can lessen -- but not eliminate -- that kind of risk.  

      •  I'd Say I Am Much More Of A Moderate (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lakehillsliberal, OIL GUY

        here as it relates to oil and coal. But you are actually making our point:

        The problem is that this is very very risky stuff.  Drilling is risky (blowouts happen on land, too).  Drilling in water adds to the risk.  Drilling in deepwater adds to the risk. Drilling in very deep formations under the seabed floor adds to the risk.  Unfortunately, of course, that's where the oil is.  There's no way to get to that oil without risk.

        I just think we need as a nation to have a conversation about this. If we keep using energy the way we do (and I do like my cheap gas/power) then we have to know things like this are going to continue to happen.

        "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

        by webranding on Tue May 04, 2010 at 07:55:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Exactly. We can't have both. We can't expect (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          webranding, VClib

          cheap gasoline and power, and at the same time say that we should not be doing risky drilling.  The two are fundamentally incompatable.  And Americans have to realize that.  

          If we don't want to see these kinds of things, we have to expect much higher gasoline/energy prices.  The upside is that much higher prices make alternative forms of energy -- which, right now are not economically feasible without huge subsidies from the government -- more economically viable.  

          For example, in 2005 I bought a hybrid car, which was more expensive than the non-hybrid version of the same car.  If you did the math, even with the government rebate for a hybrid, even figuring in the gas I would save, it was STILL a money loser, unless gas went up to like $4 - $5 a gallon and stayed there, and I kept the car 8 - 10 years. Significantly higher energy costs means that alternatives begin to make more economic sense.  

          •  And I Think Many Folks Think We Can (0+ / 0-)

            have both. We can't. We should have started to have this conversation as a nation years ago, heck Jimmy Carter tried in 1977, cause I think we've already passed the "tipping point."

            "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

            by webranding on Tue May 04, 2010 at 08:08:47 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Government role in energy markets (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I agree that an increase in energy prices would be likely if they reflected true environmental costs. However, let's not forget that our government currently subsidizes oil and other anti-green energy in a wide variety of ways.

            If government more aggressively intervened to support the alternatives market (or conservation) -- all the way through the extraction/production/distribution/consumption/disposal pipeline -- the increase in prices might not be as high.

            Amory Lovins has written tons about this and I haven't found anyone who's really effectively disproved his research.

            Blogging for a Progressive South //

            by ProgressiveSouth on Tue May 04, 2010 at 08:17:45 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Why should government subsidize? (0+ / 0-)
              1.  We don't have the money.
              1.  Government subsidies do nothing but subsidize unreasonable demand.  Americans are so in love with their automobiles precisely because of cheap gasoline.  If you want conservation, if you want Americans to use energy more wisely, prices have to go up.  There's no other way to force Americans to change behavior.  
              •  The question isn't whether to intervene or not (0+ / 0-)

                The government already massively intervenes in the energy market, as they should (because the market itself doesn't accurately reflect the true cost/benefit of energy) -- they're just doing it for the wrong side now (cheap leases, subsidizing nuclear, etc.)

                You could steer all of that to a different set of supports for conservation, alt fuels, new production processes, etc. -- as I said, up and down the energy chain.

                Blogging for a Progressive South //

                by ProgressiveSouth on Tue May 04, 2010 at 08:57:33 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  A hurricane blew Nautilus 70 miles off course (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        OIL GUY, Sue Sturgis

        Operating out in deep water is incredibly risky and subject to any number of hazards. The margin for error is miniscule.

        But currently, even with oil prices stabilizing, the logic of our oil dependence market still makes it worthwhile for these companies to push farther and deeper.

        Tweaking a few regs won't solve the problem. We need to fundamentally change the energy market so that it reflects the reality that this kind of offshore drilling isn't a good idea.

        Blogging for a Progressive South //

        by ProgressiveSouth on Tue May 04, 2010 at 08:03:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I think given what you are saying, we (0+ / 0-)

        should be more careful not less in allowing these deep water drilling operations.  It is reasonable to expect issues so the question in my mind is why wasn't every conceivable precaution taken(remote control shutoff).  To be fair, our risk/reward structure is fairly lax...a company is only responsible for $75 million in clean up costs currently.  There is a real incentive, not to add all the safety bells and whistles.

        "When fascism comes to America, it'll be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross." Sinclair Lewis

        by lakehillsliberal on Tue May 04, 2010 at 08:06:19 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  This is simply not true (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          webranding, VClib

          To be fair, our risk/reward structure is fairly lax...a company is only responsible for $75 million in clean up costs currently

          This is simply wrong, incorrect, not true.  

          Pursuant to federal law passed after the Exxon Valdez spill, BP -- whether the were actually operating the well or not -- is the "responsible party" liable for ALL environmental damage and clean up.  All.  Period.  No limit.  Every cent.  That is why Obama and other keep saying that BP is paying.  Because they are.  No cap.  No limit.  For this first kind of liability -- environmental damage and clean-up - there is no $75 million cap. BP pays whatever it costs to get that oil out of the Gulf and remediate the environmental damage.  

          The second kind of liability is economic harm to people like oyster fishermen, shrimpers, that kind of thing.  There, there are two avenues of recovery.  BP is liable up to $75 million (that's what you were confusing).  But there is ALSO a fund of about $1.6 billion that has been funded by oil companies paying into it at the rate of so much per barretl that will be used for these economic losses.  This liability is in addition to the first liability above.  

          Third, there is liability for the explosion itself -- the loss of 11 lives, and the loss of equipment worth hundreds of millions of dollars.  There, we don't know yet who is liable.  BP is the owner of the rig (like an owner of a lot who wants a house built). Transocean was the drilling operator (like the contractor who agrees to build the house).  Haliburton and others were subcontractors (like the electricians and plumbers hired by the general contractor).  For this third kind of liability, we will have to wait until the investigation determines what happened to know who is at fault and who is liable.  

          •  Except that Exxon never did completely clean (0+ / 0-)

            up Prince William Sound.  Apparently, you can still find oil from the 20 year old spill.  1.6 billion won't even begin to cover this but I stand corrected on the 75 million.

            "When fascism comes to America, it'll be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross." Sinclair Lewis

            by lakehillsliberal on Tue May 04, 2010 at 08:35:12 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The law in question (0+ / 0-)

              It was a result of the Exxon Valdez, so it didn't apply to Exxon - only subsequent incidents.

              Legalism: strict conformity to the letter of the law rather than its spirit

              by Catte Nappe on Tue May 04, 2010 at 08:41:00 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  The law was passed AFTER the Valdez (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Catte Nappe, VClib

              spill, precisely BECAUSE of that spill.  That law is what makes BP the "responsible party" for the clean up.  

            •  Well That Is What Is Going To Be Interesting (0+ / 0-)

              to see. The courts ruled damages against Exxon of $5B in punitive damages. Over the next two plus decades they fought that total down in the courts to where they only paid under a $1B (including interest).

              "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

              by webranding on Tue May 04, 2010 at 08:42:27 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Chump change... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                "When fascism comes to America, it'll be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross." Sinclair Lewis

                by lakehillsliberal on Tue May 04, 2010 at 08:49:12 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I Totally Agree. The Key Is At The Time (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  Exxon said, after the initial "it wasn't our fault" BS, that they'd pay everything just like BP is saying. After the initial public outcry was over they fought the $5B judgment (something like 35,000 plaintiffs) for more then two decades to lower it to something like $750M and a few $100M more in interest.

                  Mark my words. The EXACT same thing will happen here no matter what BP executives are saying at this moment.

                  "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

                  by webranding on Tue May 04, 2010 at 08:52:28 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  But the law is substantially different now (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    and was passed precisely BECAUSE of how Exxon handled that.  It was intended to change things -- so that there was no longer any way for the owner of the oil to escape liability for enviornmental damage and clean up.  

                    It's pretty foolproof.  BP is the "responsible party" for all environmental damage and clean up. Here in New Orleans, we are getting this stuff 24 hours a day on the news, and BP has expressly said, over and over, that it is completely liable for all clean up costs.  

                    What Exxon escaped in the Supreme Court, by the way, was NOT clean up costs.  It was punitive damages.  The amount of punitive damages -- over and above clean up costs and regular damages -- was reduced.  That's not the same as the Supreme Court saying they weren't responsible for clean up costs, even if Congress had NOT enacted this new law to say that, in the future, there would be no question about who had to pay environmental damage and clean up.

                    The Act is the Oilfield Pollution Act ("OPA"), signed into law in 1990.

          •  My Understanding Is What You Wrote (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Catte Nappe, coffeetalk

            is 110% correct. The only way I feel comfortable saying that is I've read some pretty "geeky" oil industry blogs the last few days. I know our "traditional" media sucks. But this just incident just highlights it so clearly. All you have to do is spend maybe an hour on a few oil related blogs (or even here) and you have a picture that is far more clear then what I get from MSNBC.

            "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

            by webranding on Tue May 04, 2010 at 08:39:26 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Partially true (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Yes, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 does make "each responsible party" pay for removal costs of an oil spill. What will be interesting in this case is who is "responsible" -- BP? Transocean? Halliburton? Remember, BP was only leasing a Transocean rig.

            That's the strongest part of the Act. The weak part is liability for damages. First, the Act caps liability at $75 million, part of the deal-making that went into passing the bill.

            Second, all of this has to be fought out in the courts. The Act says injured parties can seek damages for "injury to, destruction of, loss of, or loss of use of natural resources, recoverable by a U.S. state, tribal, or foreign trustee, including reasonable costs for assessing damages; injury to, or economic losses from destruction of, real or personal property, recoverable by the owner or lessee; loss of subsistence use of natural resources, recoverable by the user."

            I don't have to tell you that BP has a veritable army of lawyers whose very job will be to deny each of those claims -- which won't amount to much because of the $75 mil cap anyway.

            Blogging for a Progressive South //

            by ProgressiveSouth on Tue May 04, 2010 at 09:01:54 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The act provides that the owner of the (0+ / 0-)

              vessel or facility from which oil spilled or leaked is the responsible party for the damage caused by the spill or leak.

              BP is the responsible party under federal law for environmental damage and clean up.  BP may have be able to make a claim against Transocean, to get reimbursed some or all of the costs of clean up, depending on what caused the accident and what the contracts between those companies say.

              As for the explosion itself -- not the environmental damage and clean up -- that's where we don't know who among BP, its drilling contractor, or the subs -- is responsible.  

              •  No (0+ / 0-)

                The language is very clearly "each responsible party." Which makes sense, given that the company leasing the operation may have very little to do with the incident.

                BP is stepping forward to claim responsibility and say they'll do the cleanup, which is something the both need to, and can afford to, do.

                But don't be surprised is they turn around and blame Transocean, which likely had the most direct involvement with the April 20 disaster.

                Blogging for a Progressive South //

                by ProgressiveSouth on Tue May 04, 2010 at 01:31:32 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  A diary yesterday (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Catte Nappe

        had a transcript of a radio interview with an (anonymous) survivor of the Horizon. This person claimed the explosion on the rig was indeed caused by gas coming up the pipe.

        The interview was on Mark Levin's radio show, and that coupled with the anonymous status of the interviewee caused some to question it, but it's interesting nonetheless.

        "A lie is not the other side of a story; it's just a lie."

        by happy camper on Tue May 04, 2010 at 08:41:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm in New Orleans. We live surrounded (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Catte Nappe, happy camper

          by the oil and gas industry.  I have relatives who've worked on rigs (including the Deepwater Horizon), worked in refineries, etc.  And gas coming up the pipe is often a culprit in blowouts.  There are lots of safety checks you can do to try to prevent it or at least attempt to predict when they are happening and how big they will be, but those are not foolproof.  There's always a risk.

          And, of course, we won't know if that's what happened until the investigation is complete.  

          •  Risks piled on risks (0+ / 0-)

            I think that is the issue. There's always a risk of a blowout, but add that to the risk of it happening underwater instead of on land, and then add to that the risk of very deep water...

            The question becomes, how much risk are we willing to accept? What are the trade-offs against potential damage done?

            Legalism: strict conformity to the letter of the law rather than its spirit

            by Catte Nappe on Tue May 04, 2010 at 09:01:40 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Deeper does = riskier (0+ / 0-)

      But it's the only place oil companies can go, with shallow water now showing lower payoff. That's part of the reason for the push to drill in the Atlantic seaboard.

      And it's sobering to think that these "state of the art" rigs have already had so much trouble in their deep-water projects.

      Blogging for a Progressive South //

      by ProgressiveSouth on Tue May 04, 2010 at 07:59:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  For those who say "Stop drilling" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, VClib, jfromga

    There are a couple of points I see here.

    1.  What proof do we have that "design flaws" caused the explosion?  As far as I know, this is an ongoing investigation and there have been no conclusions reached yet.  What you have right now is speculation, just like the speculation that happens after a plane crash, about what MIGHT have happened.  Your sentence "which may have the same design flaws that led to the" Horizon disaster is just wrong, as of now.  We don't know (1) if there were design flaws or (2) if they led to this disaster.  Right now, we don't know WHAT led to this disaster.  We will know only after the investigation is complete.  Right now, we don't know if there is some "design flaw" that can be corrected to make drilling in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico less risky.  Frankly, I kind of doubt that you can design a rig to do this kind of drilling without significant risk.  
    1.  Those problems you cited about hurricanes -- that's one of the risks inherent in drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.  Hurricanes happen there.  (Most often, the rigs are evacuated prior to the arrival of a hurricane in the Gulf.  We here in New Orleans hear when that happens, as it is a sign to us that the storm, whereever it is, is to be taken seriously.)  You cannot drill in the Gulf of Mexico without risking hurricanes.
    1.  There is inherent risk in drilling in the Gulf, and there always will be.  Not only is there risk involved in drilling of ANY kind (blowouts happen on land, too) but there drilling in water adds to the risk (and the expense) and drilling to deeper formations (which is where the vast majority of the known reserves are now) also adds to the risk. As far as I can tell (and the oil and gas business is big here in New Orleans and I know a lot of people, including relatives, who work on these rigs -- including some who've worked on the Deepwater Horizon), you cannot design a system to drill without risk. The answer may be that we stop drilling in the Gulf and all risky areas.  But, of course, anyone who advocates for that, but is not willing to see gasoline prices go up significantly, maybe to European levels ($6, $7,$8 a gallon) is a hypocrite.  High gasoline prices do have an upside, of course -- they will force Americans to begin the process of weaning themselves off cheap fossil fuel energy.  But it's going to be painful for a number of years in the meantime.  
    •  Exactly right -- and the conclusion is the same (0+ / 0-)

      As I say above, the current disaster -- along with all the smaller disasters and near-disasters that have happened before -- show us that offshore drilling is a very risky enterprise.

      And it will continue to get riskier as companies are forced to drill further and deeper, or into new areas (Atlantic seaboard, etc.).

      I think there's enough concern about the design of Transocean's Deepwater series to stop operations on the Nautilus, ASAP.

      But the overall problem won't be solved by regulatory tweaking. Offshore drilling is just inherently risky, period, and it's just going to get worse.

      If the energy market can't self-correct for this reality, the government needs to step in by (1) raising the cost of offshore-drilled energy to reflect its true cost, or (2) subsidize alternatives to reflect their true benefit.

      Blogging for a Progressive South //

      by ProgressiveSouth on Tue May 04, 2010 at 08:07:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Fix the fucking leak, you assholes!!! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, midwestblue

    The British Government should disband BP.  And people should be held criminally responsible for this.

    When you stand with a Veteran, you stand with Somebody!

    by RockyLabor on Tue May 04, 2010 at 07:45:07 AM PDT

    •  Believe me, there are SIGNIFICANT (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cotterperson, Catte Nappe, VClib

      numbers of people in South Louisiana right now trying to do exactly that.  Lots.  The best engineering minds in the world -- including not only from the oil and gas industry, but also from government, from academia, and from private consulting groups -- have been called in and many are right now assembled here in small towns in South Louisiana like Houma and Venice frantically working to do exactly that.    

      And until we know what happened to cause this, we won't know who is to blame and who "should be held criminally responsible."

      •  Maybe Congress is criminally responsible (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cotterperson, midwestblue

         We let this industry become lax over the last 20 years because we are so dependent on oil.  We did not require the state of the art safety equipment and apparently according to one whistle blower, all of BP's safety records are not up to date on it's rigs.  If the proper inspections were being done, that would not be possible.

        BP safety records not complete

        "When fascism comes to America, it'll be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross." Sinclair Lewis

        by lakehillsliberal on Tue May 04, 2010 at 08:14:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That, of course, is jumping to a conclusion (0+ / 0-)

          we don't know yet what caused this explosion, or whether BP's documentation was up to regulatory code or not, or whether (even if it was not) that had anything whatsoever to do with the explosion.  If BP didn't have safety documents on file for what to do in a hurricane, for example, that would have nothing whatsoever to do with this explosion.  BP had also been cited for safety awards on this rig.  That, too, is irrlevant until we determine what caused this.  

          You can put in and enforce all the safety rules and regulations you want.  As of today's technology, you can only mitigate against risk. You cannot eliminate the risk of this kind of deepwater drilling.  You either allow it, acknowledging the risk and doing what you can to mitigate against it, know that the risk is always there that this kind of thing will happen, or you prohibit all risky drilling (and the vast majority of drilling in this country is risky) and accept gasoline prices on a par with Europe.  

          That's the choice, basically.  

          •  You are kidding right, whatever caused the (0+ / 0-)

            explosion, lack of attention to detail and the failure to keep records is a clear indication that BP was not up to this job and should have had it's license to operate this rig pulled a long time ago.  

            "When fascism comes to America, it'll be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross." Sinclair Lewis

            by lakehillsliberal on Tue May 04, 2010 at 08:31:10 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  We don't know who caused it or why (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Catte Nappe

              Remember, BP was the owner of the lease.  That's like the owner of a lot who wants a house built.  Transocean was the drilling operator -- that's like the general contractor who agrees to build the house.  Halliburton and others were subcontractors hired by Transocean -- the way the general contractor hires people to do drywall, people to do plumbing, people to do electrical work.  

              So, who's screw up was this? BP's?  Transocean's?  Halliburton's?  It's impossible to tell without knowing what caused the explosion.  I certainly don't know yet.  The federal government doesn't know yet.  And of course, you don't know yet.  We don't know yet what caused this accident or whose fault it was.  What records weren't properly kept?  Do you know? Do you even know if that is true or not?  Do you know if the records had anything to do with safety on the Deepwater Horizon?  How did the failure to keep records have anything to do with the explosion?  What caused the explosion -- was it an unexpected gas bubble (a frequent cause of blowouts)?  a mechanical failure (and whose equipment)? a screw up by an employee (and whose employee)?  a design flaw (again, on whose equipment)?  Until the investigation reaches conclusions, we just don't know.  

              This is pretty analogous to a plane crash where a lot of people are speculating about what caused it before the black box has even been found.  

              •  I don't know if you've listened to the interview (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                with the rig worker, but I highly recommend it.

                He said that there is a constant struggle to adjust the pressure in the well, which frequently surges as the drill hits pockets of natural gas. He also said that this is much more difficult in deep water because the oil and gas deposits are under such intense pressure.

                He made it seem like this accident was the result of a large gas eruption occurring just as they were completing the first phase of the cementing process. In his mind, this was a rare occurrence, but one that is not preventable. He saw it as an act of god in the sense that nature will always prevail eventually.

                God has no religion. - Gandhi

                by OIL GUY on Tue May 04, 2010 at 08:58:49 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  "Deep water is much harder" (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  OIL GUY

                  I heard that part, too. I think that's one of the lessons here. The incessant drive to drill deeper and further is part of the problem here.

                  My own view is that offshore drilling poses a set of risks and problems that make it untenable, shallow or deep.

                  But at the very least, I hope this disaster raises questions about the push for deep-water supremacy.

                  Blogging for a Progressive South //

                  by ProgressiveSouth on Tue May 04, 2010 at 09:06:58 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  I did listen to it (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Catte Nappe, OIL GUY

                  He sounds like any number of rig workers I've talked to over the years.  They know the risks, they are very very careful to follow all the safety procedures and guidelines, but sometimes bad stuff (like that gas coming up the pipe) happens that they can't prevent.  

              •  Here is an except from the link, I don't (0+ / 0-)

                know this looks pretty bad for a project that even in the best of conditions is very dangerous.

                he whistleblower, whose name has been withheld at his request because the contractor still works in the oil industry and fears retaliation, first raised concerns about safety issues related to BP Atlantis, the world's largest and deepest semi-submersible oil and natural gas platform, located about 200 miles south of New Orleans, in November 2008.

                It was then that the whistleblower, who was hired to oversee the company's databases that housed documents related to its BP Atlantis project, discovered that the drilling platform had been operating without a majority of the engineer-approved documents it needed to run safely, leaving the platform vulnerable to a catastrophic disaster that would far surpass the massive oil spill that began April 20 following a deadly explosion on a BP-operated drilling rig.

                "When fascism comes to America, it'll be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross." Sinclair Lewis

                by lakehillsliberal on Tue May 04, 2010 at 09:24:22 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  We don't know if that had anything to do with (0+ / 0-)

                  this accident.  It is talking about documents being missing for specifically for a different rig and platform -- the Atlantis.  Did BP have those documents for the Deepwater Horizon?  That's exactly the kind of thing an investigation will tell us.

                  Yes, I'm sure it will be part of the investigation.  But no, we do not have enough information yet to know if that has any relevance to what caused this particular explosion, mainly because we don't yet know what caused this particular explosion. That's exactly why you do an intensive investigation after something like this.  

  •  Every new well is a ticking time bomb (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, midwestblue, Losty

    All the old wells are too.  Somebody makes a mistake and a blowout can happen.  The deepwater wells are especially challenging because of pressure, potential pressures in the wells and the water.  Robots only limit what can be done.

    But the Australian well that took weeks to shut down with several failed attempts wasn't at anywhere near the depth.

    Nobody pays attention until the worst happens.  The danger has been there for decades, the worst didn't happen in our back yard.

    I am not convinced the country will actually change even now that the danger has been realized in an actual blowout.  Will we decide to save the coastline and realign our economic engines to use alternative energies instead of fossil fuels.  There are a lot of good reasons to do so, not least of which is saving ourselves.  But, will the majority of people make a sacrifice, endure some difficulties during the transitions?  Or will we continue to underwrite the losses, kill the planet, for short term 'cheap fuel'?

  •  Is the Shell Perdido,Deepwater Horizon (0+ / 0-)
    Brother, i read about this drilling rig yesterday    ,it is  actually 200 miles  from  Houston in the Gulf Of Mexico    In  Texas an oil company can set up a drilling site on your private property, if they own the mineral right too your property ,you have no legal recourse if they start drilling on your property  
  •  Transocean is a US company... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe

    Confusion has been created by the fact that Transocean maintains a corporate registration in Switzerland.

    It is NOT a Swiss company, except in a very strict legalistic sense. The company's HQ is Houston, TX, and most of its senior executives are American oil men. The stock is traded on the NYSE.

    The company has global operations and is registered in Switzerland as a tax dodge, which the company readily admits. But in every real sense it is an American company.

    •  When it comes to liability ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... those "legal fictions" end up mattering quite a bit.

      Everyone knows the main operation is in Houston. But when they formed the company, they did the papers in Cayman Islands. All the mergers and acquisitions never brought it to U.S. soil, legally.

      And now, it's a Swiss corporation ... legally.

      Blogging for a Progressive South //

      by ProgressiveSouth on Tue May 04, 2010 at 01:29:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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