New report says BP shortcuts caused Deepwater Horizon explosion, oil spill
A new federal government report released this week blames BP for most of the errors and oversights that caused the fatal Macondo well blowout and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Compiled by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), the report echoes the findings of earlier probes, including those of a commission formed by President Obama to determine the cause of the spill, but it also slams BP for violating several federal safety regulations in an effort to save time and money.
The BOEMRE investigation found that BP’s attempt to complete the Macondo well amounted to a sloppy rush job that violated a number of key regulations governing offshore drilling safety. According to the New York Times, among BP’s indiscretions were “violations of laws that required BP and its contractors to operate in a safe manner, to take measures to contain oil and gas for the protection of health and the environment, to conduct reliable tests of well pressures and to notify federal regulators of changes in drilling plans.”
At the core of the Deepwater Horizon explosion: a failed cement plug 18,000 feet below the sea floor (about 23,000 feet from the surface), which failed to keep oil and gas contained within the well. A series of mechanical and human errors compounded the problem and ultimately allowed extremely pressurized natural gas to burst upward, resulting in a massive explosion that killed 11 crew members and injured many more. The resulting oil spill gushed out of control for 87 days and flooded the Gulf with five million barrels of oil.
“The loss of life at the Macondo site on April 20, 2010, and the subsequent pollution of the Gulf of Mexico through the summer of 2010 were the result of poor risk management, last-minute changes to plans, failure to observe and respond to critical indicators, inadequate well control response and insufficient emergency bridge response training by companies and individuals responsible for drilling at the Macondo well and for the operation of the Deepwater Horizon,” the report says.
BOEMRE also pinned some of the blame for the disaster on BP contractors Transocean, the Deepwater Horizon’s owner, and Halliburton, which BP hired for the well cementing work. In its response to the federal report, BP said that it agreed with the report’s “core conclusion” that the Deepwater Horizon accident was the result of multiple causes, involving multiple parties, including Transocean and Halliburton, and that it had been working since the disaster to improve the way it works.
BP, Transocean, and Halliburton remain under a criminal investigation by the Justice Department that could lead to indictments and massive fines for the parties should they be found guilty of criminal activity. David M. Uhlmann, a University of Michigan Law School professor and former chief of the Justice Department’s environmental crimes section, told the New York Times that the BOEMRE report “increases the likelihood that BP, Transocean and Halliburton will face criminal charges for their roles in causing the gulf oil spill.”
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