SGS Technical Luncheon for September 9th, 2010

The Causes of the Deepwater Horizon Blowout: Technological Failure or Human Error?

Speaker: Toby Roesler
First VP, Southeastern Geophysical Society
New Orleans, LA.

Speaker Biography:

Toby Roesler is a Geophysicist with 20+ years of oil and gas experience. He has primarily worked exploratory and development projects in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico basin.


The blowout and explosion of the BP operated Macondo well in Mississippi Canyon Block 252 caused the death of eleven rig workers and led to the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon semi-submersible drilling rig, creating the largest offshore oil spill in US history. If the oil industry is to resume deepwater drilling, it is critical that the cause of this event is recognized and understood. If the cause is due to critical gaps in safety and drilling technology, then operations must be curtailed until new technologies can be developed and implemented. Likewise, if the ongoing investigations reveal the cause of the blowout was the result of human error, then best practices need to be codified and enforced.

There are still significant gaps in our knowledge of what happened on the rig leading up to the blowout. However, enough information has been made available to determine what went wrong with this well operation. The root causes of the blowout and explosion of the BP Macondo well can be ascertained from the documents and testimony that have been released by the Congressional and Coast Guard Inquiries. An analysis of these documents indicates 8 key issues led to the blowout of the Macondo well. These issues touch on the subsea drilling environment, operational decisions made, and the effectiveness of well safety equipment.

Macondo Well Log
Macondo Well Log