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Saturday, May 1

Oil Spill: Cameron International and Deepwater Horizon companies in the crosshairs over failed oil rig blowout 'fail safe' mechanism

I really like it that AOL News has been featuring 'citizen journalists' who specialize in a topic under discussion in the news, rather than using wire service reports. Such is the case for Carl Frazen, an AOL News contributor who does a bang-up up job of explaining the blowout preventers ("BOPs") on oil rigs and what seems to have been the catastrophic failure of a BOP on the oil rig that exploded in the Gulf.

Franzen provides so many links in his report that I'll just pass along the first three paragraphs without copying the links, and with the strong recommendation that you read his entire report if you're trying to follow the many byways of the oil spill disaster:
(April 30) -- With efforts to battle the massive Gulf Coast oil slick now demanding precedence, the question of who or what is to blame for the spill itself remains murky. One fact, however, is starkly clear: The piece of offshore-rig equipment designed to be "a drilling operation's last line of defense" against leaks failed miserably.

When an oil rig has an uncontrolled oil pressure buildup -- like the one thought to have set off the explosion that sank the Deepwater Horizon rig last week -- a device called a blowout preventer (BOP) is supposed to deliver a hydraulic-powered "guillotine"-like slice to the drill pipe, crimping and sealing it off.

BOPs are mandated on all U.S. offshore oil rigs and are supposed to undergo regular inspection. Several studies have shown them to be increasingly reliable; however, they are not flawless. [...]

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