Was BP grossly negligent in causing the Gulf oil spill, or do the contractors hired by the oil giant, including the Deepwater Horizon rig’s owner, share blame for the disaster? The answer to that question is worth about $40 billion, and some analysts believe that the findings contained in an internal BP report could ease the financial burden on BP by laying some of the blame on BP’s contracted help and partners.
The report was compiled by Mark Bly, BP’s head of safety, after an investigation of the April 20 explosion that caused the largest oil spill in history. Bly’s findings indicate Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon platform, and Halliburton, the company that cemented the well, are mostly to blame for the explosion. The errors of those companies, according to the BP report, led to the explosion.
Many analysts believe the report effectively eases the accusations of recklessness and flagrant safety violations aimed at BP since the onset of the oil spill, making a gross negligence case against the oil giant difficult to prove.
If independent findings bolster the BP report, then Andarko Petroleum, which owns 25 percent of the blown-out well, and Mitsui, a Japanese company that owns 10 percent, will also have to pay clean-up costs and damages, which could peak at $50 billion.
But some experts caution that the report is critically skewed and will likely do more harm to BP in the long run.
Ken Medlock, energy fellow at the Baker Institute at Rice University in Texas, told Reuters that “The report doesn’t discuss at all whether or not there were people cutting corners or if some compromises were made.”
“I think that’s really what the government’s focus will be,” Medlock told Reuters.
The report also blames Transocean and Halliburton for oversights of key safety issues that rival oil companies manage themselves, such as pressure monitoring and determining appropriate types of drilling mud, thereby undermining BP’s claims that it is a safety-oriented company.
Moreover, the report fails to hold BP accountable for its decision to circulate the mud in the well for a much shorter time than the industry standards call for. The process of circulating mud reveals whether gases from the oil reservoir are escaping into the well.
“The politicians are going to remain skeptical. With this report, BP has discredited itself,” he said.
Beasley Allen is representing the state of Alabama in a lawsuit against BP and has also filed lawsuits on behalf of Gulf Coast businesses and individuals harmed by the massive oil spill.