BP report on cause of Gulf oil spill spreads the blame
Human and mechanical failures led to the Deepwater Horizon blast and the subsequent Gulf oil spill, finds a BP report released Wednesday. Transocean and Halliburton are also cited.
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The report is in line with BP's longstanding contention that some blame should be shouldered by other parties involved in the exploratory well.Skip to next paragraph
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“We have said from the beginning that the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon was a shared responsibility among many entities," BP’s incoming chief executive Bob Dudley said in a statement.
While it is the first comprehensive report on the blowout to emerge from a company close to the tragedy, it will not be the last word. Two of the oil giant's partners in the drilling operation – Transocean and Halliburton – have yet to weigh in. President Obama's investigative commission, as well as a Department of Interior-US Coast Guard panel, have yet to deliver their findings.
A finding that multiple causes and events combined to create disaster was not surpising to drilling experts, who noted that it appeared to downplay BP's overriding role as operator and principal developer. Critical decisions on pressure tests and cement testing and cement type and monitoring - all were in BP's court, they say.
"They're trying to share the blame," says Dan Albers, a consulting petroleum engineer with decades of experience in offshore drilling familiar with the report. "To a degree there's some truth in that. Transocean can be blamed somewhat. Halliburton comes in for some blame. But ultimately it's BP calling the shots."
Even if Halliburton, for instance, had selected a nitrogen-based cement that was "totally inappropriate," Albers says, "any engineer worth his salt would never in a hundred years have allowed the type of cement to be used."
Environmentalists said the report did not go far enough and appeared to be primarily an attempt by the company to deflect blame from itself through technical arguments – without looking at overarching vulnerabilities in the development process.
“This accident can not be reduced to technical and human errors," Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement. "It was caused by a deep flaw in America’s oil drilling system which allowed BP to lease and drill for oil with no environmental review, no safety measures to protected imperiled wildlife, no meaningful spill cleanup plan."
Richard Charter, an offshore drilling specialist with Defenders of Wildlife who has analyzed multiple blowouts since the Santa Barbara spill in 1969, said the report raised larger unanswered questions about the need for better government accountability.
"The take-home message from today's report is that the BP disaster was not only preventable but predictable given previous accidents and blowouts seen in this industry – and knowing that the federal agency involved was taking shortcuts and allowing these companies to self-regulate," he said. "You can't let the fox guard the henhouse."