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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Well Control Equipment Failure Events Decreased in 2019

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Well control equipment (WCE) failure events during well operations in the Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf decreased by 16.9 percent in 2019, according to Well Control Equipment Systems Safety – 2019 Annual Report  released today by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Most (84.7 percent) of the 994 reported failure events, defined as any condition that prevents the equipment from meeting its functional specification, were detected during maintenance, inspection, and testing, with the remainder detected during drilling and other operations on oil and gas wells in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2019, there were 385 wells with activity, 63 drilling rigs with activity, and 29 active oil and gas operators in the Gulf of Mexico.

Report Highlights 

  • Reported event rates decreased 15.4 percent from 2018 to 2019 when adjusted for well activity. 
    • The 2019 rate declined from both 2018 and 2017, driven by a decrease in event rate for subsea WCE systems.
  • The 994 total reported events in 2019 comprised 907 subsea WCE system events and 87 surface WCE system events.
    • Although both surface system rigs and subsea system rigs conducted operations on a similar average number of wells per year (5.8 and 6.5, respectively), 10-fold fewer events were reported for surface systems than for subsea, comparable to previous years.
    • No leaks of wellbore fluids to the environment, classified as losses of containment, were reported to SafeOCS in 2019. The last such event was reported in 2017.

Today’s report and reports from prior years are available at

Media contact: Dave Smallen, Technical contact: Allison Fischman,