Oil Spill Blamed on BP
Written by Faith Anderson on September 15, 2011
Federal Report Holds BP Responsible for Disaster
According to the federal report, in the days leading up to the disaster, the British company made a series of decisions that added risk, complicated cementing operations, and may have contributed to the ultimate failure of the cement job. These poor decisions, the report declared, included using only one cement barrier and BP’s choice to set the production casing in a location on the Macondo well that created additional risk of oil or gas influx. According to the panel, BP failed to communicate to Transocean these decisions and the increasing operational risks. “BP, as the designated operator under BOEMRE regulations, was ultimately responsible for conducting operations at Macondo in a way that ensured the safety and protection of personnel, equipment, natural resources, and the environment,” the panel concluded.
In the report’s 57 findings about the oil spill, BP engineer Mark Hafle was the only person mentioned by name. The report indicated that Hafle’s failure to investigate or resolve issues detected during a critical test may have contributed to the failure of the crew to detect the initial influx of gas and oil, which led to the explosion. Hafle also decided not to run a cement log, which is a test that evaluates the quality of the cement job; a decision that was in violation of BP procedures. BP issued a statement declaring that the company accepts the report’s conclusion that the accident resulted from multiple causes involving multiple parties, but did not comment on the report’s specific conclusions about the cement.
Future Changes in Offshore Drilling Practices
The federal report concluded that BP made decisions blindly, without assessing risk, and in some instances skipping internal processes the company relied on to evaluate the potential dangers of their decisions. One thing notably missing from the report however, was the government’s own role in approving some of the risky decisions that may have led to the explosion and oil spill. The federal agency that oversees offshore drilling, BOEMRE, signed off on many of the decisions made by the company, and accepted an outdated and faulty oil spill plan for the well that discussed protecting species that did not even exist in the Gulf of Mexico.
The panel has recommended further changes to future offshore drilling practices, including requiring at least two barriers to be placed in a well, one mechanical and one cement. The Macondo well involved in the BP oil spill had only one barrier, which left only the blowout preventer to stop the devastating blowout. The panel also suggested that BOEMRE standardizes testing procedures on oil and gas wells. The 2010 BP oil spill not only resulted in eleven deaths, but also spewed more than 200 million gallons of crude oil from an undersea well owned by BP. The devastating spill caused billions of dollars in damage to hundreds of miles of coastline and severely affected the Gulf economy. The British company has “acknowledged its role in the accident,” and continues to “encourage other parties to acknowledge their roles in the accident and make changes to help prevent similar accidents in the future.”