BP Promises a Safer Oil Company
Written by Faith Anderson on February 14, 2013
BP: “the Harvard of Well Control”?
Richard Morrison is set to take over as president of BP’s operations in the Gulf of Mexico, and he reports that changes implemented since the Deepwater Horizon disaster represented a greater investment in safety than for any of the oil company’s competitors, and were “laying the foundation for a very safe company.” For example, BP has established a new unit in Houston focused on monitoring oil wells being drilled offshore, in order to watch for signs of trouble – a function that Morrison says has no parallel in other companies. BP is also setting up its own training facility to educate supervisors and engineers on ways to manage possible oil and gas leaks like the one that led to the fatal 2010 explosion, which has the company calling itself “the Harvard of well control.”
Previous BP Disasters and Safety Claims
This isn’t the first time BP has made such claims about the safety of its company. Following other BP failures including a leak from a pipeline in Alaska in 2006 and the 2005 Texas City refinery explosion that killed fifteen people in what was called one of the worst industrial accidents in the U.S., Tony Hayward took over as chief executive in 2007 and promised (just like Morrison) to restructure the company to focus on safety “like a laser.” According to Morrison, the oil company had been in the process of implementing those changes and hadn’t yet been in full effect at the time of the Deepwater Horizon explosion.
BP Accused of “Gross Negligence or Willful Misconduct”
Despite heated debates in recent years about whether or not the oil company should even be allowed to drill in the Gulf again, BP is more active now in the Gulf of Mexico than ever before, with seven rigs drilling wells, and the firm has its sights set on the United States as a means of future growth due to challenges it faces in other parts of the world. In the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, however, BP has been barred from new federal contracts, which means it is prohibited from taking out any new drilling leases in the Gulf until the ban is lifted. In its settlement last year with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), BP admitted that negligence on the part of its employees (and other companies) was a “proximate cause” of the deadly explosion and oil spill. BP continues to deny, however, claims by the DOJ that the company had acted with “gross negligence or willful misconduct” leading up to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
BP Should Stop Making Promises and Act
Taking into consideration previous disasters that occurred on BP’s watch, the company’s failure to implement improved safety measures after these accidents, and accusations of gross negligence against BP by the Department of Justice, the UK oil company’s most recent claims regarding safety changes that will surpass its competitors should be taken with a grain of salt. After all, actions speak louder than words. We’ve all heard BP’s promise made in 2007 to focus on safety “like a laser” and again, six years later, to make itself “the Harvard of well control,” but until we see proof of these claims, whether or not BP will be able to improve its image in the U.S. and with other governments and companies worldwide, and establish itself as a legitimately safe oil company remains to be seen.