A government safety probe into the cause of BP’s oil spill asserts that the oil giant focused too much on small details involving personal safety while losing sight of larger, more systemic dangers that threatened the entire operation.
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion killed 11 workers and released more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico from the blown-out Macondo well a mile below the surface. BP leased the Deepwater Horizon rig from Transocean, which kept a crew onboard to operate the platform.
The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board also said that generally BP wasn’t as cautious and safety-oriented when its drilling operations included partner companies and contractors, and that discrepancy contributed to the disaster. The Board determined that, in effect, BP had a double set of safety standards – one for their own facilities and one for those owned and operated by other companies.
Daniel Horowitz, the Board’s managing director, told the Associated Press that “BP applied lesser process safety standards” to offshore drilling facilities leased from other companies than it did its own rigs, adding that both BP and Transocean “dropped the ball on major accident hazards” in operating the Deepwater Horizon.
Investigators also concluded that BP failed to comprehensively evaluate the major accident risks posed by the rig and well because its risk evaluation processes “looked only at BP assets,” thus placing financial risks above safety risks. Ironically, this blunder has cost BP billions of dollars while tarnishing its reputation.
Florida Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), who chaired another federal investigation of the BP spill, told the Associated Press that BP’s lackadaisical safety oversight was “very disturbing because the Gulf of Mexico belongs to the American people.”
In its presentation at a Houston, Texas, conference, the Chemical Safety Board said that BP’s failure to balance worker safety with the overall safety of the Deepwater Horizon rig and Macondo well operations bore an “eerie resemblance” to its findings in an investigation of BP’s deadly Texas City refinery explosion in 2005, which killed 15 people.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass) is urging the House Natural Resources Committee to hold hearings about the regulatory lapses revealed by the Chemical Safety Board’s report.
“We need to ensure that BP and the rest of the oil and gas industry are instituting a safety culture that will prevent such disasters from ever recurring. The CSB report suggests that, all too often, industry is looking at the wrong indicators for what risks a major accident. That is a disturbing conclusion that our committee needs to look at very closely,” Markey said in a statement.