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Importance of Well-Maintained Blowout Preventers

In the dangerous and delicate field of oilrigs, hundreds of mechanical parts come together to maintain the integrity of the structure and keep the rig functioning properly. Among these, the blowout preventer fills an essential role. This combination of individual preventers, sometimes referred to collectively as the BOP, blowout preventer stack, or blowout preventer system, was developed to cope with the erratic and sometimes extreme pressure changes that can occur at a drilling site.

When pressure builds up inside a drill hole or along the flow of gas or oil, it could cause a catastrophic blowout of the equipment and threaten the stability of the rig. Blowout preventers are used as a fail-safe to prevent a potentially disastrous buildup of pressure.

The massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the industry, is partially attributed to malfunction of the rig's 300-ton blowout preventer. After the explosion on the rig, the blowout preventer should have stopped the massive leak of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, but when it failed to complete this task, it was replaced by more successful methods. BP, the company responsible for the rig and the spill, received criticism for not maintaining the blowout preventer, which was installed for exactly this kind of situation. It was revealed that the preventer had not been inspected for four years before the disaster, and ineffective design rendered it unable to stop the huge oil leak.

In the event of a catastrophe, the blowout preventer can minimize the damage and keep oil from polluting the surrounding area. A well-maintained systems of BOPs may be able to avert a crisis altogether. After the Deepwater crisis, the U.S. government enacted stricter policies on developing, maintaining, and inspecting blowout preventers, particularly in deep-sea drilling rigs. Despite the dangers of drilling, order for rigs and equipment for them show no signs of decreasing. One can only hope that proper maintenance and caution regarding the blowout preventers can help avert a crisis like the Deepwater Horizon incident.

Arnold & Itkin represented more of the Deepwater Horizon crew and their surviving family members than any other law firm in the world. We focus our practice on maritime litigation, and we would be honored to help you and your family answer any questions you might have. Please contact us today.

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