C A R L    S A F I N A

“A ship that had been tending the rig, the Bankston, retrieves those in lifeboats. Not aboard the Bankston: Jason Anderson, of Midfield, Texas, thirty-five, father of two, tool pusher, the supervisor on the floor at the time of the accident who’d worried aloud to his wife and dad about safety on the rig and who’d spoken of the “bladder effect” causing the pressure discrepancies they were seeing; Aaron Dale Burkeen, thirty-seven, of Philadelphia, Mississippi, father of a fourteen-year-old daughter, Aryn, and a six-year-old son, Timothy; Donald Clark, forty-nine, an oil industry veteran married to Sheila, living in Newellton, Louisiana; Steven Ray Curtis, thirty-nine, the driller who’d named this the “well from hell”; Roy Wyatt Kemp, twenty seven years old, who lived in Jonesville, Louisiana, with his wife, Courtney; Karl Kleppinger Jr., thirty-eight, of Natchez, Mississippi, Army veteran of Operation Desert Storm, leaving behind a wife and son; Keith Blair Manuel, fifty-six, father of three daughters, avid supporter of Louisiana State University sports teams, and engaged to be married to his longtime love, Melinda; Dewey Revette, forty-eight, of State Line, Mississippi, having been with Transocean for twenty-nine years, and leaving a wife and two daughters; Shane Roshto, just twenty-two, of Liberty, Mississippi, husband to Natalie and already father to three-year-old son Blaine Michael; Adam Weise, twenty-four, of Yorktown, Texas, a former high school football star who loved the outdoors; Gordon Jones, twenty-eight, of Baton Rouge. A few days after Gordon died, his widow, Michelle, gave birth to their second son.

Mike Williams says,

‘All the things that they told us could never happen, happened.’

For two days, a fireball. So hot it appears to be melting some of the rig. Which finally sinks.

Accusations: BP’s own report will later say, ‘A complex and interlinked series of mechanical failures, human judgments, engineering design, operational implementation and team interfaces came together to allow the initiation and escalation of the accident. Multiple companies, work teams and circumstances were involved.’ BP’s recap: The cements failed to prevent the oil and gas from entering the well. Staff of both Transocean and BP incorrectly interpreted the negative pressure test by tragically explaining away the pressure they were seeing on one gauge. This led them to release the downward fluid pressure on the well by replacing the heavier fluid with seawater in a well that they falsely believed — because the kill line was clogged with the ‘snotty’ spacer — was not exerting upward pressure. It was. The pressure in the drill pipe, which they chose to ignore, was telling them that the cement had failed. They didn’t notice other warning signs because they bypassed gauges and routed displacement fluid and their irregularly concocted spacer overboard. But as gas reached the rig, when the crew might have prevented disaster, they routed the flow to a mud-gas separator whose capacity was soon overwhelmed. Gas flowing directly onto the rig got sucked into generators, causing them to surge and spark, igniting a series of explosions. Fire and gas emergency systems that should have prevented those explosions failed. The blowout preventer should have automatically sealed the well but it, too, failed.

Unlike a tanker running aground and spilling oil — a simple cause-and-effect accident — this is a chain disaster. Each of the distinct failures of equipment and judgment, combined, was required to cause the event. And if any single component had not failed, or had been handled differently, this blowout never would have happened. And we’re not done yet, because a failure of preparedness to deal with a deepwater blowout will cost many pounds of cure over the coming months.” –Carl Safina, A Sea in Flames: The Deepwater Horizon Oil Blowout

Get your copy of A Sea in Flames here.






Photo credit: Carl Safina. Road sign in Louisiana, 2010.