Failing Blowout Preventers

    • Failing Blowout Preventers

      The Gulf oil disaster isn't the only time a blowout preventer failed to stop an explosion.

      On June 3, a natural gas well in central Pennsylvania erupted despite the fact that it too was outfitted with a blowout preventer, spewing gas 75 feet into the air for 16 hours before it was brought under control.
      The BOPs were touted by the industry for their ability to make dangerous drilling operations safer, or at least less dangerous. But although failures are rare, their consequences can be catastrophic.

      There are actually three different kinds of BOPs -- pipe rams, blind rams and shear rams -- each of which use various mechanisms to remotely seal off a leaking well. The pipe ram fits tightly around the pipe to cut off flow from the outside, according to Paul Bommer, petroleum engineering professor at the University of Texas in Austin. The blind ram caps the pipe by closing completely over the top of it, and the shear ram cuts through a leaking pipe and seals the open hole.

      Even tough they are tested thoroughly, it has been seen that the BOPs can fail. It is time for a revamp of the BOPs and welcoming of some fool-proof BOP technology?