Report identifies options for lowering risk of failure of undersea bolts on offshore oil rigs

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Report identifies options for lowering risk of failure of undersea bolts on offshore oil rigs

WASHINGTON — A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine identifies strategies for improving the reliability of bolts used in offshore oil and gas drilling rigs, thereby reducing the risk that a bolt failure could cause a spill of oil, drilling fluids, or natural gas into the environment. Although the oil and gas industry has made important advances in improving the reliability of bolts, there are multiple opportunities for the industry and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) to work together to further improve reliability and safety culture, the report says.

Bolts and other fasteners are an integral part of undersea equipment in offshore oil rigs, including for critical pieces of safety equipment such as blow-out preventers (BOP). No major oil spills have resulted from the failure of a bolt or fastener, but there have been minor oil releases and near misses caused by unexpected bolt failures. Such incidents illustrate a compelling need for augmenting the regular inspection with an industrywide continuous monitoring program of bolts that have shown issues, the report says; currently there is no standard industrywide program to inspect bolts that have failed or are being replaced, such as after the five-year inspection required for BOPs.

BSEE could proactively work with the oil and gas industry to construct a comprehensive road map of key objectives and priorities to be implemented by the industry, the report says. Industry should have a large role in determining the priority for addressing potential improvements.

The road map could include sections on:

  • investigating bolting cluster failures using a large-scale, fully instrumented test rig that simulates undersea conditions on fasteners;
  • researching and developing innovations that could significantly advance the reliability of offshore fasteners in critical service;
  • identifying gaps in current standards and obtaining the necessary data to guide updates to the standards; and
  • promoting a strategic vision for the safety culture throughout the oil and gas industry. This would include collecting and disseminating information about fastener performance, failures, and near misses, and using this information to guide roadmap priorities.

The report also recommends several other actions the oil and gas industry should take to improve the reliability of undersea bolts. For example, industry should establish a standard laboratory test method to assess how susceptible bolting materials are to cracking and embrittlement from exposure to hydrogen. It should review the standards, such as those related to bolt tensioning, in order to minimize the likelihood of excessive stress being placed on bolts in subsea environments. And it should promote an enhanced safety culture across organizations and disciplines – one that is reflected in work rules and encourages all levels of the organization to improve the reliability of undersea bolts.

The study was sponsored by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln. For more information, visit http://national-academies.org. A committee roster follows.

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Contacts:

Riya V. Anandwala, Media Relations Officer

Andrew Robinson, Media Relations Assistant

Office of News and Public Information

202-334-2138; e-mail news@nas.edu

Copies of High-Performance Bolting Technology for Offshore Oil and Natural Gas Operations are available from the National Academies Press on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu or by calling 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES OF SCIENCES, ENGINEERING, AND MEDICINE

Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences
National Materials and Manufacturing Board

Committee on Connector Reliability for Offshore Oil and Natural Gas Operations

Robert E. Schafrik* (chair)

Presidential Distinguished Professor of Industrial, Systems and Manufacturing Engineering

College of Engineering

University of Texas

Arlington

Robert Pohanka (vice chair)

Director (retired)

National Nanotechnology Coordination Office

National Nanotechnology Initiative

Alexandria, Va.

Clyde L. Briant*

Otis E. Randall University Professor of Engineering

Brown University

Providence, R.I.

Willard C. Capdevielle

President and Founder

Bill Capdevielle Enterprises LLC

Cypress, Texas

Homero Castaneda

Associate Professor and Director

National Corrosion and Materials Reliability Center

Texas A&M University

College Station

Nancy J. Cooke

Professor of Cognitive Science and Engineering

Polytechnic School, and

Science Director

Cognitive Engineering Research Institute

Arizona State University

Mesa

Thomas W. Eagar*

Professor of Materials Engineering and Engineering Systems

Department of Materials Science and Engineering

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Boston

L. Brun Hilbert Jr.

Principal Engineer

Exponent Inc.

Menlo Park, Calif.

Derek J. Horton

Materials Research Engineer

U.S. Navy Research Laboratory

Alexandria, Va.

David W. Johnson Jr.*

Senior Advisor

Stevens Institute of Technology, and

Editor-in-Chief

Journal of the American Ceramic Society

Bedminster, N.J.

David K. Matlock*

University Emeritus Professor

George S. Ansell Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering

Colorado School of Mines

Golden

Jyotirmoy Mazumder*

Robert H. Lurie Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Department of Mechanical Engineering

University of Michigan

Ann Arbor

Roger L. McCarthy*

Consultant

McCarthy Engineering

alo Alto, Calif.

John R. Scully

Interim Department Chair, and

Charles Henderson Chaired Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and

Co-Director

Center for Electrochemical Science and Engineering

University of Virginia

Charlottesville

Pol D. Spanos*

Lewis B. Ryon Professor of Mechanical Engineering and of Civil Engineering

George R. Brown School of Engineering

Rice University

Houston

Neil G. Thompson

Senior Vice President

Det Norske Veritas (DNV-GL)

Arlington, Va.

STAFF

Erik B. Svedberg

Staff Officer

*Member, National Academy of Engineering

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