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Oil Spill Commission Assigns Blame for BP Disaster

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Oil Spill Commission Assigns Blame for BP Disaster

Key findings from the chapter:

“. . .the Macondo blowout was the product of several individual missteps and oversights by BP, Halliburton, and Transocean, which government regulators lacked the authority, the necessary resources, and the technical expertise to prevent.”

“The blowout was not the product of a series of aberrational decisions made by rogue industry or government officials that could not have been anticipated or expected to occur again. Rather, the root causes are systemic and, absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, might well recur.”

“What we. . .know is considerable and significant: (1) each of the mistakes made on the rig and onshore by industry and government increased the risk of a well blowout; (2) the cumulative risk that resulted from these decisions and actions was both unreasonably large and avoidable; and (3) the risk of a catastrophic blowout was ultimately realized on April 20 and several of the mistakes were contributing causes of the blowout.”Among the examples of engineering mistakes and management failures highlighted in the chapter:

• Inadequate risk evaluation and management of late-stage well design decisions;

• A flawed design for the cement slurry used to seal the bottom of the well, which was developed without adequate engineering review or operator supervision;

• A “negative pressure test,” conducted to evaluate the cement seal at the bottom of the well, identified problems but was incorrectly judged a success because of insufficiently rigorous test procedures and inadequate training of key personnel;

• Flawed procedures for securing the well that called for unnecessarily removing drilling mud from the wellbore. If left in place, that drilling mud would have helped prevent hydrocarbons from entering the well and causing the blowout;

• Apparent inattention to key initial signals of the impending blowout; and

• An ineffective response to the blowout once it began, including but not limited to a failure of the rig’s blowout preventer to close off the well.

The chapter reports that these failures were preventable. Errors and misjudgments by at least three companies -- BP, Halliburton and Transocean -- contributed to the disaster. Federal regulations did not address many of the key issues -- for example, no regulation specified basic procedures for the negative pressure test used to evaluate the cement seal or minimum criteria for test success.

The chapter also notes, "Whether purposeful or not, many of the decisions that BP, Halliburton, and Transocean made that increased the risk of the Macondo blowout clearly saved those companies significant time (and money)."

The Commission’s full report will be released on January 11th.


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