This will attempt to provide an overview of the risk assessment for the platform survivability in a blowout scenario such as the one happened to BP's Macondo oil spill (Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill).



The purpose of the “What-if” Assessment is to conduct, identify and address any risks to personnel, environment and assets related to the survivability of the platform in a well blow-out scenario. Through the early identification of the risks and hazards, risk mitigation can be identified and implemented, allowing for risk reduction in the project and its final design.

The “What-if” Assessment should be integrated as a lessons learned approach where the combined knowledge of the team allowed for discussion of past experiences and the lessons learned from those experiences. Through the implementation of a lessons learned approach, credible scenarios can be identified and recommendations documented to increase the safety of the overall design and preparedness for drilling operations.


The objectives of the “What-if” Assessment are to:

  • Incorporate as much as possible from the team’s knowledge to the project, in particular with respect to drilling operations.
  • Identify potential hazards in the proposed layout of the assets being considered
  • Consider consequences of the hazards.
  • Identify safeguards that are in place to provide hazard prevention or mitigation.
  • Propose recommendations, as needed to eliminate, prevent, control, or mitigate hazards.


The “What-if” Assessment can be applied to Tension Leg Platform, Floating Processing Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel and support vessels.


A structured “What-if” Assessment is a brainstorming session using a multi-disciplined team. Personnel familiar with the facility, or topic of the review, discuss aspects in a somewhat random fashion whatever comes to mind and is therefore not systematic. It has become an accepted the technique for the identification of potential hazards and safeguards during the early stages of a project.

A “What-if” Assessment usually cannot be relied upon for identifying unrecognized hazards so, unless the right questions are asked, hazards may go unidentified. Therefore, a series of pre-prepared questions should be assembled for the review team to stimulate the discussions.

The “What-if” Assessment methodology typically involves:

  • Assembly of an appropriate team of experienced engineers, designers, operators including representatives of all disciplines involved in the area and/or activity being reviewed.
  • Detailing the scenario, designs, systems, and activities under the scope of the “What-if” Assessment.
  • Defining the systems and activities to be evaluated.
  • Application of the relevant guide words or “What-if” questions to stimulate discussion, to identify major hazards and other concerns.
  • Brainstorming each system or activity to determine the:
    • credible hazards or hazard events
    • causes/threats and conditions resulting in these hazards or hazard events
    • consequences of hazard events without safeguards safeguards (barriers or recovery measures) currently in place, or expected to be in place, to prevent, detect, control, or mitigate the hazard event and/or their consequences
  • Developing recommendations including an initial determination of areas where risk reduction must be considered.
  • Determining requirements for additional specific risk assessment to be performed, where appropriate.
  • Recording the discussions on worksheets summarizing the nature of the hazard, its consequences, and planned/assumed safeguards in place and recommendations for any actions required.
  • Repeating this process for each system or activity until all systems have been studied.
  • Risk ranking cannot be performed during the study. However, where applicable, should be conducted using a small group from the original team.

See Part 2 for Sample “What-if” Assessment Pre-prepared Questions.