At a recent presentation at the Aspen Ideas Festival, one of Shell’s experts on deepwater drilling suggested that flaws in the design of BP’s Macondo well were likely responsible for the blowout that led to the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This reinforces the results of a recent Congressional investigation that criticized BP’s use of a “long string” system rather than a safer, but more expensive “liner-tieback” approach.
Joe Leimkuhler is the offshore well delivery manager for Shell with responsibility for offshore well operations in the Americas. Mr. Leimkuhler’s presentation provides a very clear overview of the technology involved in deepwater drilling. While it is obvious that Shell is not an impartial observer in this debate, the scientific evidence presented in Mr. Leimkuhler’s presentation seems to be corroborated by the details of the previously released Congressional report.
Mr. Leimkuhler suggested that it would make more sense to impose a moratorium on the use of the “long string” design rather than the current blanket moratorium on all deepwater activity. Obviously, Shell has an interest in ending the blanket moratorium as soon as possible, but the arguments should be evaluated based on the scientific merits. The video of the presentation appears below.
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Disclosure: The author of this article owns shares of companies involved in offshore oil exploration.