Learning from the Macondo Disaster: The Gulf of Mexico
As the nation considers exploring for and producing energy from offshore frontiers, we have a new opportunity to do things right. It will take several years to fully implement the new safety regime this Commission has recommended—essential changes from doing business as usual in the Gulf of Mexico. But it is not necessary to put deepwater drilling on hold until all the changes are in place. The national and regional energy and economic imperatives can be reconciled effectively with the equally urgent needs to assure human safety and environmental integrity in the Gulf context, now and in the long term.
That shared commitment must extend beyond current conditions. Current technology enables drilling in water twice as deep as at Macondo. Drilling at such depths requires all parties to set their standards still higher for difficult issues such as remote containment systems in water depths with extreme pressures and very limited human access, as well as different geological pressures and formations and mixes of hydrocarbons. Desire to tap resources in deeper waters should be accompanied by equivalent investments in subsea equipment, operator training, research and development for containment and response technologies, demonstrated financial capacity, and continuous improvement of industry practices devoted to safety.