The following is a fact-check from the May 30, 2010 episode of Meet the Press.


1) The Deepwater Horizon accident was unprecedented  РFALSE

2) Blowout preventers are on more than 5,000 deepwater wells and have not failed beforeHALF TRUE

MR. DUDLEY: This is an unprecedented accident. These, these blowout preventers which are used on oil and gas wells all around the world and have been used on more than 5,000 deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico have not failed before.

According to NPR, an accident occurred on June 3, 1979, on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico called Ixtoc where for 10 months oil spilled uncontrollably into the Gulf. The similarities between the Ixtoc accident and the Deepwater Horizon are startling. Here is what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported from Ixtoc:

The oil and gas blowing out of the well ignited, causing the platform to catch fire. The burning platform collapsed into the wellhead area hindering any immediate attempts to control the blowout. PEMEX hired blowout control experts and other spill control experts including Red Adair, Martech International of Houston, and the Mexican diving company, Daivaz. The Martech response included 50 personnel on site, the remotely operated vehicle TREC, and the submersible Pioneer I. The TREC attempted to find a safe approach to the Blowout Preventer (BOP). The approach was complicated by poor visibility and debris on the seafloor including derrick wreckage and 3000 meters of drilling pipe. Divers were eventually able to reach and activate the BOP, but the pressure of the oil and gas caused the valves to begin rupturing. The BOP was reopened to prevent destroying it. Two relief wells were drilled to relieve pressure from the well to allow response personnel to cap it. Norwegian experts were contracted to bring in skimming equipment and containment booms, and to begin cleanup of the spilled oil. The IXTOC I well continued to spill oil at a rate of 10,000 – 30,000 barrels per day until it was finally capped on March 23, 1980.

Another accident occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in Febuary 2000, where the connection from the blowout preventer and the rig was severed, releasing 150-200 barrels of oil into the sea. Again, the Wall Street Journal reports two more offshore accidents occurring in 2001 involving faulty BOP components. And according to the Associated Press, the U.S. Minerals and Management Service have reported 14 separate instances where blowout preventers (BOP) have failed, since 2005.

1) The Ixtoc accident that occurred in 1979 involved an initial blowout and platform fire, uncontrolled gushing of oil into Gulf, faulty BOP, attempts to cap oil, and two relief wells. The Deepwater Horizon accident has involved an initial blowout and platform fire, uncontrolled gushing of oil into Gulf, broken BOP, multiple attempts to cap oil, and two relief wells are being dug. Identical, except that the Ixtoc accident did not occur in such a great depth of water as BP’s Deepwater Horizon, but other than the depth, the similarities of the attempts to stop the gushers are practically identical. Even though the Deepwater Horizon accident occurred at a greater depth (5000 ft.), we still rate Mr. Dudley’s statement FALSE as it was obviously not unprecedented.

2) We were not able to track down the exact amount of blowout preventers on deepwater wells, but since the numerous reports of faulty BOPs occurring between early 2000 and today makes his statement FALSE, yet his inclusion of “deepwater” makes his statement TRUE – we rate Mr. Dudley’s misleading statement HALF TRUE.

This fact-check took a combined 2 hours.