BP workers could have prevented rig accident: report

WASHINGTON Thu Feb 17, 2011 6:26pm EST

Work continues on equipment at the site of the BP oil well leak in the Gulf of Mexico, in this image captured from a BP live video feed July 14, 2010. REUTERS/BP/Handout

Work continues on equipment at the site of the BP oil well leak in the Gulf of Mexico, in this image captured from a BP live video feed July 14, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/BP/Handout

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - BP had workers on the doomed Deepwater Horizon rig who could have prevented the missteps that led to the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but they were not consulted, the White House oil spill commission said on Thursday.

In an expanded report on the causes of the BP drilling disaster that killed 11 workers and ravaged the U.S. Gulf coast last summer, the commission released new details about the events that preceded the BP accident.

The commission's investigators said BP workers failed to ask a knowledgeable company engineer who was visiting the rig about unexpected results from a critical negative pressure test on the rig.

"If anyone had consulted him or any other shore-based engineer, the blowout might never have happened," the commission said in a statement.

The misreading of that pressure test and the decision to move ahead with temporary abandonment of BP's Macondo well was a major catalyst for the April 20 rig explosion that eventually unleashed millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Had BP's well site leaders brought their faulty explanation of the test results to one of the visiting engineers, "events likely would have turned out differently," the commission report said.

The engineers visiting the rig that day later questioned the crew's interpretation of the test results. BP onshore officials said they would have insisted on further testing, had they been consulted.

"The sad fact is that this was an entirely preventable disaster," the commission's chief counsel, Fred Bartlit, said in a statement. "Poor decisions by management were the real cause."

BP said in a statement it has a "good understanding" of the causes of the accident based on its own internal investigation and commission's conclusions.

"BP has already incorporated the findings of these reports into its current and future plans and has made significant management and organizational changes to further enhance the company's safety and risk management processes going forward," the company said.

Created by President Barack Obama during the BP oil spill, the commission released its major findings and recommendations last month.

The expanded report on the causes of the accident does not change any of the commission's previous conclusions, but is meant to provide the public with the "fullest possible account" of the accident, the commission said.

While the commission does not have the authority to enact policy or take punitive action, the panel's findings could affect future criminal and civil cases related to the spill.

Other new details released in the report include the finding that BP knew that there were issues with Halliburton and its work years before the accident.

The commission previously criticized Halliburton's cement job on the rig, saying the company may have completed the job before knowing its cement formula was stable.

The new report said BP's engineers had problems with the Halliburton engineer assigned to the Macondo well for years, but they still did not review his work carefully.

In addition, the flow of oil and gas that led to the explosion "almost certainly" came through an area of the well where Halliburton's cement should have blocked the flow.

Halliburton said in a statement it was still reviewing the report.

Another key finding was that any flaws in the blowout preventer were not the root cause of the explosion.

Some Republicans criticized the commission's findings because the panel never examined the blowout preventer, which they say could have possibly contributed to the accident.

The rig crew did not activate the blowout preventer until hydrocarbons had already flowed by it, however, the report said. "Even if the BOP had functioned flawlessly, the rig would have exploded and 11 men would have died," the report said.

Transocean Ltd, which owned and operated the Deepwater Horizon rig, was also accused in the report of missing several signs that hydrocarbons were in the riser pipe of the rig prior to the blowout.

Transocean, when contacted, did not have an immediate comment on the report.

(Editing by Walter Bagley and David Gregorio)

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Comments (4)
mtatom wrote:
Is there a lesson to be learned here? I doubt it. Money runs the business–not safety.

Feb 17, 2011 1:35pm EST  --  Report as abuse
DrJJJJ wrote:
Drill baby drill! Geetiing ugly in the Middle East, like fighting/dying for oil? Like tranfering hundreds of billions/yr and thousands of high paying jobs to Venezula, Mexico, Africa? Are we more environmentaally responsible (now) or are 3rd world countries? How stable are we when we have to import 60% of oil that’s used for thousands of products every day with no substitutes for decades? Did ya know we are sitting on 50 years worth of known reserves in Alaska? Do we need the trillions for debt reduction or should we send to Muslim countries our life blood?? It’s now a no brainer folks and anyone who thinks we can substitue green technology in a hurry in intellectually dishonest at best!! We will be drilling all our own oil soon enough-we’ll be forced to!! Shouldn’t we be proactive? Thanks!

Feb 17, 2011 3:59pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Robert76 wrote:
It is funny how we always use “unfriendly nations” as an excuse to do away with safety regulations that might ultimately save out lives.

Well, we also import a lot of Oil from Canada. And you what, they are not an “unfriendly nation.” If we have to import, I would prefer from them.

Then there is the Alaska Oil. One would think this is US Oil and should be used in the US. But no, the Oil Pipelines the tax payers helped pay for are taking oil to the loading facilities where a lot of the oil is headed over seas as exports. Imagine that, here we are exporting oil when we are crying about importing oil. Does that make any sense to anyone?

Here is Texas we have 200 yrs of natural gas supplies and now are building loading facilities to export that. What gives?

Feb 17, 2011 5:39pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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