rulings and public interpretation”.9 According to members of the International Association of Drilling Contractors, so long as legal liabilities exist, it is unlikely that efforts to share near-miss information across companies will be fruitful.10

Summary Observation 5.7: Overall, the companies involved have not made effective use of real-time data analysis, information on precursor incidents or near misses, or lessons learned in the Gulf of Mexico and worldwide to adjust practices and standards appropriately.

Research and Development

For decades, a significant majority of R&D investments were made by individual oil and gas companies. However, about 20 years ago, as deepwater exploration and development was evolving into a major activity in the Gulf of Mexico, many companies were reducing R&D spending (NPC 2006). The move to outsource R&D in general had begun. The research that was being carried out had more to do with facilities and deepwater exploration, drilling, and production technologies than with system safety. R&D focused on system safety includes aspects such as better safety software, real-time data monitoring and interpretation, and systems simulations that could assess the risk levels of a given deepwater drilling system. R&D that is focused on system safety should also involve the ability to assess effects of environmental conditions on MODU operation, which includes the drilling unit.

Summary Observation 5.8: Industry’s R&D efforts have been focused disproportionately on exploration, drilling, and production technologies as opposed to safety.


Responsibility and Accountability

Summary Recommendation 5.1: Operating companies should have ultimate responsibility and accountability for well integrity, because only they are in a position to have visibility into all its aspects. Operating companies should be held responsible and accountable for well design, well construction, and the suitability of the rig and associated


9 Report of the Society of Petroleum Engineers Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Drilling and Completions Advisory Summit to NAE/NRC Committee, March 2011, Most recently accessed Jan. 17, 2012.

10 Responses of the International Association of Drilling Contractors to questions from the committee, March 2011.

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