The Chemical Safety Board is set to release the initial findings from its probe of the Deepwater Horizon disaster during a two-day hearing in Houston later this month.
The independent federal agency also will scrutinize how refiners are assessing and boosting the safety of their operations by tracking leading and lagging indicators of problems, seven years after the BP Texas City refinery explosion that killed 15 workers and injured 180 others.
The CSB probed the Texas City disaster as well as more than 50 other industrial accidents. It is the last remaining government panel still investigating the April 20, 2010 blowout of BP’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico and the fatal rig explosion that followed.
CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso promised that the July 23-24 hearing would “provide a unique opportunity for safety experts from around the world to share information and discuss the most advanced work in the area of safety performance indicators for major accident prevention in high-hazard industries.”
The CSB has investigated whether fatigue was a factor in the Macondo well blowout, especially since workers on Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig had just moved from a 14-day work schedule to one where they worked 21 days in a row.
The CSB also has been taking a close look at the blowout preventer that failed to successfully sever drill pipe and seal off the Macondo well hole. A forensic team that examined that device for the Interior Department and Coast Guard concluded that the drill pipe was pushed askew by oil and gas surging out of the well, preventing the shearing blades from cutting cleanly through the pipe.
Because of its unique role as an independent federal agency, the CSB could go further than some other investigations in assessing whether regulation of offshore drilling was too lax and contributed to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
According to the CSB, the first day of the Houston hearings will focus on how process safety is monitored in the petrochemical and refining industry. Safety board staff will discuss their evaluation of an American Petroleum Institute recommended practice for industry tracking of process safety performance indicators that was created after the Texas City blast. “The lessons learned from other high hazard industries with advanced indicator programs will also be discussed,” the agency said.
On July 24, the CSB will shift its attention to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. CSB staff will present their preliminary findings “on the use of safety indicators and major accident prevention” as it relates to the Macondo blowout. According to the agency, the CSB has “examined tens of thousands of documents from over 15 companies and parties in order to examine the use of safety indicators.”
The public hearing will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on July 23 and 24 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, 1200 Louisiana Street in Houston.