casualties of the workers. Furthermore, the loss of the rig may have limited options for recapturing control of the well. These concerns led to the assessments and recommendations reported in Chapter 4.

Industry Management of Offshore Drilling

The multiple companies involved in drilling the Macondo well reflect the complex structure of the offshore oil and gas industry and the division of technical expertise among the many contractors engaged in the drilling effort. Chapter 5 reports on the committee’s assessment of the extent to which the actions, policies, and procedures of corporations involved failed to provide an effective systems-safety approach commensurate with risks of the Macondo well. The committee noted that the safe drilling of deepwater wells is inherently dependent on human decision making. Therefore, there is a critical need for adequately trained personnel. The committee assessed the education, training, and certification of key personnel and the extent of industrywide learning from past events that have led to—or avoided—well control incidents. The chapter also provides recommendations for improving various aspects of industry management.

Regulatory Reform

In 2010, the regulatory approach used by MMS was based primarily on prescriptive regulations concerning well design, drilling equipment, well construction, and testing. This approach proved to be inadequate, as evidenced by the Macondo well blowout and the actions that led to the loss of well control. The committee noted the inherent limitations of prescriptive approaches and the progress on goal-oriented regulatory processes being implemented for drilling in the North Sea, Australia, and elsewhere. The approach in the United States is now shifting to be more goal-oriented and less prescriptive. Also, a process of administrative restructuring of MMS began in May 2010. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement is currently the federal entity responsible for safety and environmental oversight of offshore oil and gas operations. In Chapter 6, the committee identifies key enhancements needed as regulatory reform proceeds.


Additional background discussions of topics related to the Macondo well–Deepwater Horizon incident are provided in other recent reports (see Box 1-1). The results of these investigations were helpful in informing the committee’s deliberations. Presentations made to the committee are listed in Appendix B.

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