Glossary of terms related to Gulf Coast oil spill

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar tried to reassure Congress that the administration was doing all it could in it's response to the Gulf oil spill.
By Garance Franke-Ruta and Ann Gerhart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 26, 2010; 5:11 PM

Efforts to stop the Gulf Coast oil spill have given Americans a dizzying array of new technical terms to master. Many of these phrases sound peculiar to ears hearing them for the first time, but their functions are as serious as . . . a failed deadman switch. Below, a list of some of the least intuitive phrases, what they sound like they might mean -- and what they actually do. If they do what they are supposed to do.

Blowout preventor

Sounds like: Someone who took the last appointment at your salon.

Definition: A large valve at the top of an oil well that can be closed if a drilling crew loses control of it but that failed at Deepwater Horizon. (Source: Schlumberger's Oilfield glossary)

Shear rams

Sounds like: Tops the to-do list of a New Zealand shepherd.

Definition: Hardened steel blades within the blowout preventor designed to cut the drill pipe as a last resort to regain control of a well but that failed at Deepwater Horizon.

Deadman switch

Sounds like: When the gravediggers get it wrong.

Definition: An automated mode function failsafe that failed at Deepwater Horizon.

Acoustic trigger

Sounds like: A recurring and irksome sound that works your last nerve.

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