A Critical Safety Component in Offshore Drilling is Failing

Bolts that hold together safety systems are having problems – and the consequences could be “catastrophic.”

By Alain Stephens & Alexandra HartSeptember 2, 2016 11:15 am|

Massive bolts holding together offshore oil and gas drilling operations are breaking – and nobody’s quite sure why.

Officials warn that the bolts’ breakdown on key safety measures – like blowout preventers – could lead to a “catastrophic failure,” similar to the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010.

Now, federal regulators are urging the oil and gas industry to step up and figure out why the bolts are failing. Brian Salerno, director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, says that while the bolts – about 16 inches long and 3 inches in diameter – are simple devices, they’re highly critical to the success of deep-sea drilling operations.

“This is a wakeup call for us, for the industry, I think for everyone concerned with the safety of offshore activity,” Salerno says. “We’ve had enough warning signs, we really need to understand why these bolts are failing and to get ahead of it before there’s a catastrophic incident.”

What you’ll hear in this interview:

– How they became aware of the bolt breakage

– Why there is limited information on the failures

– How the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement is trying to fix the problem