Bad Bolts Close Rigs: BOPs “No Longer Fit For Purpose”

 corrosion, Offshore, Safety Alerts  Comments Off on Bad Bolts Close Rigs: BOPs “No Longer Fit For Purpose”
Feb 082013
Lower half of failed LMRP Connector

Lower half of failed LMRP Connector

Brittle bolts are believed to have been behind a pollution incident involving the discharge of synthetic base mud into the Gulf of Mexico, GOM, due to a loss of integrity of a LMRP H-4 connector says the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, BSEE. Operations on a number of wells have been suspended.

On January 24, 2013, BSEE personnel met with industry to discuss initial findings associated with the incident. During this meeting, a qualified third-party presented preliminary evidence that the stress corrosion cracking caused by hydrogen embrittlement was a contributor to the incident. It was introduced that zinc electroplating without proper baking, as per ASTM B633, was a possible cause of hydrogen embrittlement. During this meeting,

BSEE was told of two other rigs as having H-4 connector bolt failures.

On January 25, 2013, BSEE received information from the connector vendor which identified rigs as having blowout preventer, BOP, stack connectors that may contain bolts that may no longer be fit for purpose. BSEE issued emails to the associated operators of the subset of rigs with current well operations in the Gulf of Mexico. The content of the emails notified these operators of the initial findings and gave specific instructions on securing the current well operations in order to retrieve the LMRP and/or BOP to the surface, if not already on the surface.

These operators were directed to then suspend operations until the existing bolts on the LMRP connector/wellhead connector could be changed out with bolts that have been certified by an independent third-party to be in compliance with recommended heat treatment practices or the existing bolts have been examined and certified by an independent third-party that they are fit for purpose.

In order to ensure all of these affected bolts are identified and proper corrective action is taken,
BSEE recommends the following:
Operators are hereby urged to make an inventory of your contracted rigs [currently involved in well operations in the Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf (GOM) or planned to conduct well operations in the GOM] and investigate the bolts of the LMRP and Wellhead connectors.
If you have H-4 connectors, as identified in GE’s safety notice, and have verified through documentation that the connector contains any affected bolts, you should immediately notify BSEE. You should also consult with your contractors and subcontractors to determine the appropriate inspection, disposition and/or corrective actions. BSEE will require an independent third-party certification that confirms proper inspection and refurbishment processes were completed prior to reinstallation of any affected bolts.
Operators should review the QA/QC programs for all equipment vendors (contracted and sub- contracted) to ensure that all equipment is being manufactured to the required specifications.

Special attention should be given to ensure proper heat treating has taken place in accordance with the specifications.

BSEE Alert

BOEMRE Reissues Alert 259 On Offshore Mooring After Chain-Link Failure

 Accident report, mooring, mooring, Offshore, Safety Alerts  Comments Off on BOEMRE Reissues Alert 259 On Offshore Mooring After Chain-Link Failure
May 302011

Investigation determined that a 6 3⁄4-inch diameter, 862-pound chain link in the tether chain had fractured and separated near its butt weld.

In early 2011, a single point mooring system for a deepwater Gulf of Mexico (GOM) project failed at the tether chain for a free-standing hybrid riser, allowing the buoyancy air can and the free-standing flowline riser to separate. The 440-ton buoyancy air can rose suddenly to the surface while the free standing riser collapsed. Based on the investigation of this event and a review of historical events, BOEMRE is revising and re-issuing Safety Alert #259.


The investigation determined that a 6 3/4-inch diameter, 862-pound chain link in the tether chain had fractured and separated near its butt weld. Analysis of the fracture indicated that the chain link had a weld repair and the fracture initiated in the middle of the weld. Three links of the 24-link tether chain were found to have weld repairs. After the chain had been heat treated, the non-US based manufacturer had made weld repairs to the chain by grinding defects and filling the void with weld material. The chain was being built in accordance with Det Norske Veritas (DNV) Offshore Mooring Chain standard. Post heat treat weld repairs are disallowed per DNV’s Offshore Mooring Chain standard. The post heat treat weld repairs made the chain susceptible to hydrogen induced stress cracking due to the extreme hardness of the weld material and the residual stress within the weld. Continue reading »

Operating Blind in Deepwater

 explosion, fire, offshore, oil pollution  Comments Off on Operating Blind in Deepwater
Oct 292010

Joint Investigation - Why did it happen?

Bill Campbell, retired Shell International Health and Safety Group auditor, is a controversial commentator on the Deepwater Horizon. He has been following the on-going Joint Investigation into how such a tragedy could happen on one of the most sophisticated rigs in the world and a highly experienced and expert crew.

Only minutes before the blowout on Deepwater Horizon on 20th April everything was reported as being in order. The negative pressure test of the integrity of the well had been good and the displacement of seawater after this test was going fine.

But just 25 minutes after this reassuring message was passed to the senior toolpusher, mud started to overflow from the well onto the drill floor. With only seconds to act and do the right thing mistakes were made which allowed gas to be ingested into areas of the rig where sources of ignition were present. Actions that could have been taken to prevent the ignition of the gas were not taken and four minutes after the blowout commenced most of the crew, on or near the drill floor, were killed in the first explosion.

Continue reading »

Delving Into Deepwater – Tolerable Risks?

 explosion, fatality, fire, maritime safety, offshore  Comments Off on Delving Into Deepwater – Tolerable Risks?
Jul 072010


US Refused The Lessons Of Piper Alpha

A full understanding of how the Deepwater Horizon explosion came about and the many failures of omission and commission must wait for the publication of the belatedly-launched Chemical Safety Board investigation. What is clear is that the US learned little from the Piper Alpha disaster, which had such an impact in Europe.

Had those lessons been learned, 11 workers may have been alive today, working on a rig which, on the day of its destruction, was celebrating a safety record.

That said, and with the necessary caveat regarding eyewitness testimony and the reliability of memory under and after traumatic incidents, MAC is providing the following analysis by Bill Campbell B.Sc. MIET C.Eng. retired Shell International Health and Safety Group auditor. It was original made available on the Step Change in Safety website.

Continue reading »

Emergency Waiver to the Jones Act Proposed

 explosion, fire, offshore, oil, oil pollution, oil spill  Comments Off on Emergency Waiver to the Jones Act Proposed
Jun 212010

Hutchison PortraitWASHINGTON, DC Republican US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison from Texas has calling for an emergency waiver of the Jones Act, which requires many foreign vessels to go through a lengthy bureaucratic approval process in order to assist with the oil cleanup effort in the Gulf of Mexico. Hutchison, who is the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, said she will introduce legislation to temporarily waive the Jones Act to allow foreign marine vessels to help with the cleanup. This extended waiver would be applied for a period of time that is necessary to respond and restore the waters of the Gulf.

Continue reading »

Jun 202010

Spill, what spill?

MAC has commented before on the hazards of generic ‘safety’ documents from SMS to lifeboat manuals now wandering walruses have uncovered similar documents at BP, Exxon and Conocophillips in the Gulf of Mexico.

Each company’s oil response plans include protection of the walrus. Fortunately, the walrus is not merely a rare animal in the Gulf of Mexico, it is non-existent, as are several other species mentioned in the oil spill response plans.

Both Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson and Conocophillips CEO James Mulva confessed that the documents were ‘embarassing’. They certainly were.

All three companies purchased their oil spill response plans from the same company, The Response Group. In fact, five oil majors in total bought plans from The Response Group with, allegedly, 90 per cent identical content.

The term ‘money for old rope’ leaps to mind.

The Response Group’s motto is “Your ability to respondsis our shared responsibility”.

Continue reading »

Kiwis Head For Gulf Spill

 oil, oil pollution, oil spill, Pollution  Comments Off on Kiwis Head For Gulf Spill
Jun 042010

image Two technical experts from Maritime New Zealand, MNZ, have flown to the United States at the invitation of one of the oil spill response companies assisting with the clean-up of the Gulf of Mexico spill.

An oil spill equipment technician and a response planning officer from MNZ’s Marine Pollution Response Service, MPRS, have been seconded to support the Deepwater Horizon spill response.

Continue reading »

Deepwater Horizon – US Coast Guard Establishes Safety Zone

 Accident, explosion, fire, offshore, offshore  Comments Off on Deepwater Horizon – US Coast Guard Establishes Safety Zone
May 112010

gom Effective 11 May 2010 the US Coast Guard has established a safety zone around the riser for the Deepwater Horizon, the Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit (MODU), at Mississippi Canyon 252 in the Outer Continental Shelf where oil response efforts are taking place on the water’s surface and subsurface. The safety zone is needed to protect personnel involved in oil pollution response efforts. Placing a safety zone around the riser will significantly  reduce the threat of collisions, oil spills and releases of natural gas and thereby protect the safety of life, property and the environment.

The provisions of this temporary final rule are as follows:

Continue reading »

Deepwater Horizon Updates

 Accident, explosion, fire, offshore  Comments Off on Deepwater Horizon Updates
May 022010

image We’ll be providing links to updated information.

BP will attempt to lower a pipe to the source of the leaks, currently estimated to be 5,000 bbls – 794,936 litres (210,000 US gals) – to inject oil dispersants into the flow. This would encourage the oil to break up at an earlier stage and less oil to reach the surface.

Attempts to activate the blow-out preventer

Joint Information Center updates

NOAA updates

Effects on shipping

North of England P&I Club has issued a briefing warning of possible problems caused by hull fouling of ships transitting the area of the spill.

Standard P&I Club has a similar briefing here.


A USCG investigator has made the following appeal on the gCaptain forum: “It is my goal to ensure that this gets nothing but the best of USCG attention and the right information is gathered to answer my 3 big questions:
What happened?
How did it happen?
How do we prevent it from happening again?

If you are interested in helping and honoring those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, help me by providing me with information or educating me on the operations that led up to this incident. I am here. Please remember that it is a federal investigation, I am limited as to information that is releasable at this point, but, I will gladly share with you what I can.

My contact information is LT Angel Flood, my email at work is I don’t answer the phone much, so, email is best. Attorneys: file your Freedom of Information Act request. Media: Contact Coast Guard Public Affairs or the Joint Information Center at the incident command post. I am strictly focused on the marine casualty investigation.”


BP is trying to increase the assets it can bring to bear: “BP is looking to contract with vessels for hire (shrimp boats, oyster boats, etc.) to deploy boom in the Gulf of Mexico. The response contractors for this program are already collecting infomation on vessels. Specifically, they need the name, owner, dimensions, characteristics gincluding length, draft, horsepower, etc) and other pertinent information you can provide. Direction and training will be provided and determined by area response plans based on the highest priority areas on down.
Current staging areas for the program are Venice, LA; Mobile, AL; Biloxi, MS; Pascagoula, MS and Pensacola, FL. So far, more than 100,000 feet of boom has been deployed, with another 400,000 available. So if you can help, please do so. There is intended to be deployed launch barges staged in areas where additional boom may be deployed.
As soon as you have gathered the relevant information on your vessel, please email that information to the managing contractor Vince Mitchell at or 425-745-8017. As well, please copy BP’s coordinator Grant Johnson at


A transcript of the latest press conference, which gives a run-down on the current situation as of 1 May is here.

A live interview with a survivor can be found here.

Valuable reading to aid understanding of what gone on, and the professionalism applied, can be found in the report on the Thunder Horse close call here.