Not the blowout itself — those just happen to oil rigs and can’t be avoided — but the failure of the blowout preventer (BOP). BOPs are the primary, and clearly just about the only, defense the oil and gas industry has against blowouts in deepwater wells.
From the link:
While the Deepwater Horizon leaks’ depth is unprecedented, it was not unanticipated. A report by engineering consulting firm URS Corp. in 2002 concluded that “Technologies used in shallow waters are no longer adequate for water depths over 1,000 meters. As a result, the environmental consequences of some of the newer deepwater technologies are not well understood.”
In 2005 petroleum engineering researchers from Texas A&M University suggested that drilling in the “dangerous and unknown” ultra-deep environment required new blowout control measures: “While drilling as a whole may be advancing to keep up with these environments, some parts lag behind. An area that has seen this stagnation and resulting call for change has been blowout control.”
An analysis of incidents in the Gulf of Mexico by the Texas A&M researchers showed that offshore blowouts had continued at “a fairly stable rate” since 1960 despite the use of BOPs. Regulators require inspection of BOPs every 14 days. BP says it inspected the Deepwater Horizon’s 10 days before last month’s blowout.
Hit this link for satellite images of the slick from April 29, 2010.
Here is leaked oil heading toward the coastline of Louisiana:
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