On May 13, 2016, the offshore oil and gas industry received an important safety update from the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). Equipment manufacturers and operators of offshore wells were informed of defective bolts located on critical safety equipment. The problem was not new—in fact, BSEE cited reports going back as far as 2003—but things had reached a critical point.
The recent incidents involved bolts shearing on blowout preventers—one of the pieces of equipment implicated in the Deepwater Horizon tragedy. Blowout preventers are a last line of defense in the well-control hierarchy. Fortunately, they are rarely needed and some would say they are a valve system of last resort, with the bluntest closure being achieved when the powerful blind shear ram severs and seals the pipe in order to cut off flow in a worst-case scenario.