Could the next Deepwater Horizon disaster happen because the oil and gas industry failed to solve its oil rig bolt failure problem? According to a report in Environment & Energy, a website that covers news within the energy industry, the oil rig bolt failure issue was first discovered in 2012, but the oil and gas industry, as well as safety regulators, still have not fixed the problem.
What’s Wrong with Bolts on Offshore Oil and Gas Rigs?
The incident in 2012 involved two components of an oil rig’s blowout preventer separating during drilling. The blowout preventer is an important piece of safety equipment. It is held together by 36 steel bolts that are 9 inches long and 2 inches thick. During the incident in 2012, all 36 bolts cracked off, which enabled 400 barrels of drilling fluids to spill into the Gulf of Mexico. Following an investigation, the bolts were discovered to have become brittle, which led to them breaking apart and allowing the blowout preventer to separate.
An investigation by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) revealed that the bolts became brittle because they were poorly constructed. The manufacturer had failed to properly heat-treat the bolts, which left them prone to damage when exposed to the harsh elements they faced on the offshore oil rig. The BSEE requested the manufacturer recall and replace around 10,000 of the defective bolts it had in use on oil rigs worldwide.
In addition, the BSEE began searching for similar incidents involving oil rig bolt failure that may have occurred prior to the 2012 accident. What the BSEE found was alarming to say the least. There had been several similar bolt failure accidents dating back to 2003. The bolts involved were not limited to one manufacturer. The problem with the bolts seems to be manufacturers not properly constructing them to handle the wide range of temperature changes and corrosive seawater that the bolts must endure on an offshore oil rig.
Many of these defective bolts are still on oil rigs worldwide. While there has yet to have been a major disaster traced to the oil rig bolt failure problem, it may only be a matter of time before a catastrophic incident happens because of the defect.
The attorneys at our Louisiana personal injury law firm have years of experience successfully helping oil rig workers who were injured on the job hold those responsible for their oil rig accident injuries accountable. Before becoming a lawyer, Galloway Jefcoat LLP partner Rusty Galloway worked in oil fields, which gives him insight he uses to help clients secure justice following an oil rig injury.