Poor Behavior Cause of BP Spill

Friday, August 19, 2011 @ 05:08 PM gHale

Failure to react to repeated signs of problems with BP Plc’s Macondo oil well in the Gulf of Mexico and bypassing basic well control standards caused last year’s deadly blowout, according to a report from the flag state for the drilling rig that exploded and sank.

In another display of pointing the finger in a different direction, the Marshall Islands, where Transocean Ltd registered the Deepwater Horizon rig, also said in its 216-page report that failure to follow well abandonment plans approved by U.S. regulators played a part.

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The rupture and explosion killed 11 workers and spewed more than 4 million barrels of crude into the Gulf in the worst-ever U.S. offshore oil spill.

The report did not specifically blame any of the companies involved, from well owner BP and driller Transocean to blowout preventer maker Cameron International Corp and well-sealing cement maker Halliburton.

By sharp contrast, the Coast Guard and U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in April released a draft report citing serious safety lapses by Transocean in the lead-up to the accident.

Transocean has strongly disputed those conclusions.

Previous U.S. reports, including the one released in April by the U.S. Coast Guard, have included scathing critiques of the companies and the oil industry. The disaster has resulted in an overhaul of U.S. drilling regulations.

U.S. government reviews of the disaster have also criticized the Marshall Islands’ oversight of the vessel. In its report, the Marshall Islands said it last inspected the Deepwater Horizon in 2009, when it found it to be in compliance with regulations. However, the inspection, conducted through contractors, found some issues requiring attention — namely, engine-room components dirty with oil.

Bill Gallagher, the Marshall Islands’ senior deputy commissioner of maritime affairs, said his agency’s report was there to “put forth some observations to the International Maritime Organization” to suggest possible changes to enhance rig safety.

“We’re not going into gross negligence” or other legal issues, he said.

The report recommended better communication between flag states and coastal states — those that register rigs and regulators that oversee offshore operations — to ensure both know of conditions that could affect rig and worker safety.

A Transocean spokesman said the report “is another confirmation that the Deepwater Horizon was fully certified in accordance with regulatory requirements and fit for service at the time of the Macondo incident, which was caused by a catastrophic failure of the well itself. Eleven men lost their lives fighting to rectify that failure.”