without MMS review of the effects of the changes on the overall risk with regard to the temporary abandonment procedures. For example, no person in authority from a regulatory agency was required to review critical test data from Macondo, such as the results of the negative pressure test. Had this been a requirement before operations could continue, it is possible that the test data would have exposed the fact that the hydrocarbon-producing formations had not been adequately isolated and were in communication with the well (see Chapter 2). Also, prior to the Macondo well blowout, there were numerous warnings to both the industry and regulators about potential failures of blowout preventer (BOP) systems widely in use. While the inadequacies were identified and documented in various reports over the years, it appears that there was a misplaced trust by both industry and responsible government authorities in the ability of the BOP to act as a fail-safe mechanism (see Chapter 3).
The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling found that MMS regulations were inadequate to address the risks of deepwater drilling and did not assess the full set of risks presented by the temporary abandonment procedure used at the Macondo well. The commission’s report also noted that MMS lacked sufficient personnel with the expertise and training needed to enforce those regulations effectively and to supplement the regulations by appropriately assessing the procedure’s safety (Presidential Commission 2011). In its report concerning the causes of the Deepwater Horizon–Macondo well incident, BOEMRE concluded that at the time of the blowout, MMS did not have a comprehensive set of regulations specifically addressing deepwater technology, drilling, or well design. Had improved regulations been in effect at the time, they may have decreased the likelihood of the Macondo blowout (BOEMRE 2011).4,5
On the basis of its review of the regulatory scheme in place at the time of the Macondo well blowout and the chronology of events leading up to the incident, the committee presents the following observations:
Summary Observation 6.1: The regulatory regime was ineffective in addressing the risks of the Macondo well. The actions of the regulators did not display an awareness of the risks or the very narrow margins of safety.
Summary Observation 6.2: The extent of training of key personnel and decision makers in regulatory agencies has been inconsistent with the complexities and risks of deepwater drilling.
4The BOEMRE report describes various regulatory approvals provided by MMS prior to the blowout.
5The BOEMRE report also indicates that the BOEMRE panel found evidence that parties involved in drilling the Macondo well violated federal regulations in place at the time of the blowout.