New report blames blowout preventer for Gulf oil spill disaster


A new federal report on the devastating 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill blames a blowout preventer on BP's well for exacerbating the disaster.

The draft report from the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) on the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill says the well’s drill pipe probably buckled shortly after the initial April 20 explosion that killed 11 workers.


The blowout preventer probably did activate that night, as it should have, but its sharp blades punctured the buckled pipe near the sea floor and caused oil and gas to spew for nearly three months.

The CSB concluded that the offshore oil industry still does not completely understand what happened.

“Although both regulators and the industry itself have made significant progress since the 2010 calamity, more must be done to ensure the correct functioning of blowout preventers and other safety-critical elements that protect workers and the environment from major offshore accidents,” Rafael Moure-Eraso, CSB chairman, said in a statement. “The two-volume report we are releasing today makes clear why the current offshore safety framework needs to be further strengthened.”

The CSB said its report is the most comprehensive analysis of how the blowout preventer worked.

“The pipe buckling — unlikely to be detected by the drilling crew — could render the BOP inoperable in an emergency,” Mary Beth Mulcahy, the CSB investigator who led the analysis effort, said in the statement. “This hazard could impact even the best offshore companies, those who are maintaining their blowout preventers and other equipment to a high standard.”

Instead of recommending specific changes to the design of blowout preventers, the safety board wants federal regulators and the oil drilling industry to more aggressively investigate the shortcomings of blowout preventers. The CSB also faults BP and Transocean, the rig’s owner, for failing to notice wiring problems with the blowout preventer.