Gulf Spill: Spotlight on Missteps

Wednesday, July 25, 2012 @ 10:07 PM gHale


Deepwater Horizon was a disaster just waiting to happen.

That is one of the conclusions you could draw after another report released saying BP and Transocean lacked clear guidelines for key tests to ensure the ill-fated Macondo well was safely sealed before it ruptured and triggered the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, U.S. safety investigators said.

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The report from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board puts the spotlight back on missteps highlighted in prior investigations as BP faces potential civil and even criminal penalties over the incident.

More than two years have passed since the disaster struck at 9:53 p.m. CDT on April 20, 2010, when a surge of methane gas known to rig hands as a “kick” sparked an explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 men. The vessel sank two days later.

London-based BP was the majority owner and operator of the Macondo well and Swiss-based Transocean Ltd owned the rig, which was drilling the mile-deep well in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana’s coast.

“(BP and Transocean had) multiple safety management system deficiencies that contributed to the Macondo incident,” and neither had safety rules that adequately focused on major accident hazards, according the federal agency’s report.

The well spewed 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days straight, fouling the shorelines of four Gulf Coast states in America’s biggest offshore oil spill, eclipsing the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.

Investigators at the Chemical Safety Board focused on crucial tests run by drill workers in the days ahead of the blowout to determine if they safely sealed the Macondo well with cement.

“Transocean is committed to continuous improvement in both personal and process safety performance,” Transocean spokesman Brian Kennedy said.

“We look forward to reviewing the CSB report in its entirety toward that end, just as we have with the many investigative reports that have preceded it.”

A BP spokesman said the accident “was the result of multiple causes, involving multiple parties,” and the company “has taken concrete steps to further enhance safety and risk management,” including new drilling standards for the Gulf of Mexico that exceed current regulatory requirements.



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