RR1122 - The Deepwater Horizon Incident: Fire and Explosion Issues

The loss of life and serious environmental damage from the blow out incident on the semi-submersible drilling rig Deepwater Horizon in 2010 in the US sector of the Gulf of Mexico has forced a reappraisal of the risks associated with drilling.

HSE commissioned this work in order to consider the lessons to be learned from this international incident. It is important for HSE to stimulate and inform consideration of fire and explosion risks amongst the designers and operators of drilling rigs.

Well control is clearly the first priority but some residual risk of blowout normally remains. This report deals with the minimisation of risks from fire and explosions if blowout does occur and also deals with some issues such as options for ignition frequency reduction and fire and blast mitigation that have not been adequately covered elsewhere.

The report presents findings to inform fire and explosion risk assessment and aid the development of suitable risk control measures. Drilling rig designers and operators should note that some of the changes suggested as a result of the Deepwater Horizon incident can only be implemented at the stage of rig design or major overhaul.

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Updated 2021-05-17