Deepwater Horizon – arguably one of the most catastrophic industrial disasters of human history, and the estimated largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.
It also happens to be one of the most abysmal failures of quality management by any company, period.
On an otherwise unsuspecting evening of April, 2010, approximately 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico, the first in a chain of quality management related failures became glaringly apparent as the emergency response protocols were enforced after an oil leak in the drilling well was discovered.
The oversights were as follows:
- Lack of proper quality assessment resulted in weak, potentially contaminated cement or “drilling mud” used in the initial failsafe failing to properly block the leak.
- Fluid pressure tests were not properly carried out and clear warnings were ignored.
- Rising oil and gas levels were not properly monitored.
- The final failsafe on the ocean floor, designed to close the leaking pipe shut, failed to close due to the conditions of the drill pipe.
The aftermath of this chain of negligence left 11 people dead, caused over 130 million gallons of oil to leak into the Atlantic Ocean, and cost over $62 billion in damages.
Not one point of failure, but four. Clearly not an anomaly, this disaster was the result of a series of systematic failures that uncover a dark truth about the reality of cost-cutting and disregard for quality control.