Annoying Oil Rig Alarms Silenced

Annoying Oil Rig Alarms Silenced

The recent CEO-juggling at PB may have distracted you from an alarming news item. Mike Williams, an electronics technician for Transocean, reported that the alarm for the Blowout Preventer valve (BOP) on the Deepwater Horizon drill rig was intentionally disabled to avoid waking the crew with false alarms.

The result: no alarm for the real emergency, which cost 11 lives. A similar alarm bypass at the Upper Big Branch Mine killed 29 miners in an explosion, notes Johnny Kilroy.

 It gets worse. A supervisor told Mr. Williams that the entire Transocean fleet of drill rigs runs the alarms in bypass.

The Deepwater Horizon’s blowout preventer had not been inspected since 2000. The BOP was modified in China. The vessel was in use for nine straight years but never drydocked for refit and repair, so it was full of work-arounds.

And there may be another culprit: Bill Gates. Among the glitches besetting the Deepwater Horizon computer system: the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD), a Microsoft classic.

Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

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