BP oil leak could have been controlled by $500,000 device

I just discovered this week-old story explaining how Brazil and Norway require each offshore rig have an “acoustic switch” that allows the well to be shut down by remote control even if the rig itself is destroyed.

U.S. regulators don’t mandate use of the remote-control device on offshore rigs, and the Deepwater Horizon, hired by oil giant BP PLC, didn’t have one.

…Norway has had acoustic triggers on almost every offshore rig since 1993.

The U.S. considered requiring a remote-controlled shut-off mechanism several years ago, but drilling companies questioned its cost and effectiveness, according to the agency overseeing offshore drilling. The agency, the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service, says it decided the remote device wasn’t needed because rigs had other back-up plans to cut off a well.

…Inger Anda, a spokeswoman for Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority, said the switches have a good track record in the North Sea. “It’s been seen as the most successful and effective option,” she said.

So, the $560 million rig lacked a safety device — that costs less than my house and might have prevented millions of barrels of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico and costing millions of dollars a day just to mitigate the damage — because it was too expensive.

$0.5 million is a rounding error compared to the $1,900 million a month ($1.9 billion) BP is currently earning!

Posted by James on Wednesday, May 05, 2010