Thursday, June 5, 2014

Deepwater Horizon Blowout Animation

Deep Water Horizon
A pipe that wasn't supposed to bend, bent. This caused the disaster.
Animation of the Deepwater Horizon disaster Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico is anything but a distant memory for many, many people. The Gulf is still polluted with the oil that washed ashore after the Macondo well blew up.

This video goes through the entire disaster, step by step. If you are wondering what the heck happened, this animation pretty much tells you what you need to know. Just give it the 12 minutes it lasts and afterward, you will understand the sequence of events much better.

To be clear, this gets into a great deal that can be quite technical. It turns out that there was a battery failure - a 9-volt battery, like you would have had in an old transistor radio - which caused the whole mess. Buckling of the drill pipe completed the sequence of events that caused the entire event to happen. It all gets into material tolerances and the physics of pipe expansion at spots where the pipe curves.

If you follow this animation through, you may agree that the disaster involved some kind of company negligence involving the mis-wiring of a safety system. However, there were two instances of company negligence in the safety system that canceled each other out. The safety mechanism thus did work as intended, contrary to what many might think. The system worked as it should - but it failed to stop the disaster because the safety system which conformed to industry standards was inadequate to the task.

The problem is that there also were chemical distortions of the materials making up the pipe which the company could not have anticipated in accordance with accepted industry standards. Drill pipes are not supposed to bend, because they are quite sturdy and heavy. In fact, they are among the sturdiest and heaviest pipe for its size that there is. This pipe, though, did bend due to differential pressure of unimaginable intensity. That bending is what caused the failure of safety systems and allowed the oil/gas (5 million barrels over 87 days) to continue flowing up the pipe and feeing the fire on the Deepwater Horizon that was caused by the initial spurt of oil and gas before the safety system operated.

Effectively - and this is going to be controversial and not to everyone's liking, for sure - the video's explanation, if true, exonerates the company from causing the disaster except due to physical forces that were unknown to scientists beforehand. It was, to use a term of art, an Act of God.

Yes, I expect you not to agree with that statement and to challenge it vociferously. The oil company did the drilling, stood to benefit from that drilling, and, in the court of public opinion, is guilty for all disasters that resulted from that drilling. Period. Understood.

The only intent here is to explain what this highly technical video is saying, not to make the oil company's case for it.

This is an official release by the government and is not propaganda by the oil companies or anything like that. It is a summary, not an argument, of the findings of the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB). The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. It is as unbiased as you can get.

This animation is a great example of using animation for forensic purposes, that is, for establishing in graphical format an assumed sequence of events in a matter in dispute.

From the youtube page:
The blowout preventer that was intended to shut off the flow of high-pressure oil and gas from the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico during the disaster on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig on April 20, 2010, failed to seal the well because drill pipe buckled for reasons the offshore drilling industry remains largely unaware of.


No comments:

Post a Comment