February 28, 2024

BP Shortcuts Led to Gulf Oil Spill, Report Says

The central cause of the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig was a failure of the cement at the base of the 18,000-foot-deep well that was supposed to contain oil and gas within the well bore. That failure led to a cascade of human and mechanical errors that allowed natural gas under tremendous pressure to shoot onto the drilling platform, causing an explosion and fire that killed 11 of the 115 crew members and caused an oil spill that took 87 days to get under control.

The two-part report, compiled by a joint task force of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement and the United States Coast Guard and covering more than 500 pages, is the most comprehensive to date on the April 2010 disaster. Its findings largely mirror those of other investigations, including the inquiry by the commission named by President Obama to determine the causes of the calamity. That panel issued its findings in January.

“The loss of life at the Macondo site on April 20, 2010, and the subsequent pollution of the Gulf of Mexico through the summer of 2010 were the result of poor risk management, last-minute changes to plans, failure to observe and respond to critical indicators, inadequate well control response and insufficient emergency bridge response training by companies and individuals responsible for drilling at the Macondo well and for the operation of the Deepwater Horizon,” the latest report said.

It concluded that BP, as the well’s owner, was ultimately responsible for the accident. But it also said that BP’s chief contractors, Transocean, which owned the mobile drilling rig, and Halliburton, which was responsible for the cementing operations, shared blame for many of the fatal mistakes.

The companies have pointed fingers at one another and are engaged in multibillion-dollar litigation to try to avoid paying the enormous costs of the accident. Families of crew members are suing the companies in federal court, seeking compensation and damages.

BP said in a statement that it had long acknowledged its role in the accident and had urged its drilling partners to accept their share of the blame.

“BP agrees with the report’s core conclusion — consistent with every other official investigation — that the Deepwater Horizon accident was the result of multiple causes, involving multiple parties, including Transocean and Halliburton,” the company said. It added that it had taken steps to improve its safety practices and strengthen oversight of its contractors.

Transocean and Halliburton had no immediate comment.

While the latest federal report identifies many of the mistakes outlined in previous studies, it goes further, citing seven violations of federal regulations as factors. Among them were violations of laws that required BP to operate in a safe manner, to take measures to contain oil and gas for the protection of health and the environment, to conduct reliable tests of well pressures and to notify federal regulators of changes in drilling plans.

The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation and is likely to take into consideration the report’s conclusions about the operators’ legal violations.

The well blowout unleashed a spill of nearly five million barrels of oil, fouling the gulf and hundreds of miles of beaches, marshes and fish habitats and causing billions of dollars in damage.

The investigators said they found no evidence that the regulations in place at the time were too weak and contributed to the cause of the blowout, but said that stronger rules and stricter oversight might have reduced the likelihood of such a disaster.

The report concludes with several pages of recommendations for new rules governing well design, cement procedures and testing, design and maintenance of blowout preventers, and fire safety aboard offshore rigs. Many of those suggestions have been incorporated in rules already issued by the offshore drilling regulatory agency, but some are still being drafted.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=7ee40f2911f8de61a8c4ce52ef0f25f0

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