Training in such areas as well control and survival in harsh environments could be obtained from a variety of sources with certified training programs.

Each company, whether an operator or contractor, specifies its level of training and experience for a particular job function and how much training per year is required. There is little industrywide uniformity in the amount or the type of training required for a particular job. Testing after training has not been standardized, nor has follow-up to assess competency levels. Overall, in the drilling industry there is little uniformity in the type, amount, and frequency of training. Furthermore, there is a noticeable lack of team training and training of management personnel who make critical decisions for offshore drilling operations. (See recommendations in Chapter 4 on education and training of rig personnel.)

Capping and Containment Systems

Summary Recommendation 5.6: Efforts to reduce the probability of future blowouts should be complemented by capabilities of mitigating the consequences of a loss of well control. Industry should ensure timely access to demonstrated well-capping and containment capabilities.

The Macondo well–Deepwater Horizon event, in which the BOP system failed to contain the hydrocarbons that escaped thousands of feet below the surface of the water, presented a challenge to the offshore industry as a whole that it was not immediately prepared to address. No primary well containment system was available. The operator was compelled to use what equipment was readily obtainable in or near the Gulf of Mexico and to adapt various makeshift designs (on the basis of trial and error) of risers, caps, and other equipment to contain the hydrocarbon flow, direct it to floating production facilities, and eventually stop the flow out of the well. This process took months, during which millions of barrels of hydrocarbons flowed into the gulf waters. The incident dramatically showed the vulnerability of subsea BOP systems. Therefore, access to a containment system that can be rapidly deployed to a well is an essential aspect for offshore drilling in the near future while BOP system reliability is improved.

The committee endorses industry’s recent initiatives to establish highly capable containment systems in the event of future well blowouts. One such initiative is the well containment response system developed by the Helix Well Containment Group,15which is a consortium of deepwater operating companies in the Gulf of Mexico with the objective of expanding capabilities to respond to a subsea spill. Each member company contributes expertise and resources to help the group develop the capability of rapid intervention, response, and containment. This system is now operational.


15 Most recently accessed Jan. 17, 2012.

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