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A Thorough Analysis of the Engineering Solutions Deployed to Stop the Oil Spill Following the Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Abstract : The Deepwater Horizon drilling accident that occurred on 20 April 2010 was a two-fold catastrophe. The initial total loss of the drilling rig was followed by one of the worst environmental disasters in recent history. The four million barrels of oil that were released into the Gulf of Mexico continue to impact human activities in the area. The Macondo well incident (Mississippi Canyon 252-1, leased by BP as the primary operator) was the first deep subsea blowout in the history of the oil and gas industry, and both the United States’ government and the private sector were unprepared to deal with it. All of the safety system’s lines of defense failed and the response required multiple courses of actions to be taken to address an unprecedented situation. It was imperative to deliver the best engineering solutions under intense and ongoing pressure in a very harsh and highly stressful operational environment. In this paper we review the engineering solutions considered by the response teams. The first part of the paper gives a brief presentation of our approach to the case study. The second reviews post-blowout events, the initial organizational response and the discovery of leaks. The final part presents how the statement of the problem was developed by the organization and how the response was structured. We then analyse the engineering solutions and finally, show how the organization implemented these solutions to control the source of the spill, recover the effluent and seal the well. In conclusion, we provide an overview of the engineering work that was carried out and preview our forthcoming work. We assume that the response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was efficient from an operational point of view. Therefore, our findings will be used to develop a new approach to the analysis of major accidents and ultimately shape the design of a new set of disaster management guidelines.
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Submitted on : Thursday, July 7, 2016 - 12:05:32 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, January 7, 2021 - 4:34:04 PM
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Thibaut Eude, Aldo Napoli, Franck Guarnieri. A Thorough Analysis of the Engineering Solutions Deployed to Stop the Oil Spill Following the Deepwater Horizon Disaster. Chemical Engineering Transactions, AIDIC, 2016, 48, pp.775-780. ⟨10.3303/CET1648130⟩. ⟨hal-01343005⟩

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