TALLAHASSEE — In what likely will become fodder for upcoming lawsuits, a stinging federal report scheduled for release this week shows shortcuts, mistakes, questionable technology and overall poor management combined to cause the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
Releasing a portion of the report it will formally submit Jan. 11, the National Oil Spill Commission late last week had plenty of blame to spread around as it delves into the causes that led to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and how to prevent a repeat of the catastrophic event that cost 11 lives and billions of dollars.
BP, Halliburton and Transocean share the majority of blame for the April 20 blowout of BP’s Macondo well, but the tragedy brought up industry-wide shortcomings that are even more troubling.
“Whether purposeful or not, many of the decisions that BP, Halliburton, and Transocean made that increased the risk of the Macondo blowout clearly saved those companies significant time and money,” the report reads. “There is nothing inherently wrong with choosing a less-costly or less-time-consuming alternative — as long as it is proven to be equally safe.”
Federal regulators did not escape blame as the commission, co-chaired by former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, found agencies tasked with policing the industry lacked the authority and the expertise to properly do the job. The report is scheduled for release Jan. 11.
“The well blew out because a number of separate risk factors, oversights, and outright mistakes combined to overwhelm the safeguards meant to prevent just such an event from happening,” an advance excerpt reads. “But most of the mistakes and oversights at Macondo can be traced back to a single overarching failure — a failure of management.”
BP oversight was found lacking on a number of fronts, led by the decision to allow the well to be drilled using only six stabilizers instead of the 21 called for in its own engineers. Though unable to unequivocally link the lack of stabilizers, investigators said the decision showed markedly poor management on BP’s part.
Looking at Halliburton, the company responsible for providing the cement needed to both cap the well and secure the bore hole, the commission found that the company disregarded its own tests that showed the foamy cement mixture it was using might not work at such depths and pressures.
“Halliburton documents strongly suggest that the final foam stability test results indicating stable slurry may not even have been available before Halliburton pumped the primary cement job at Macondo,” the report said. “If true, Halliburton pumped foam cement into the well at Macondo at a time when all available test data showed the cement would be, in fact, unstable.”
Meanwhile, employees for Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon Rig, failed to follow protocols and misread telltale signs that things were not proceeding as planned during the critical hours leading up the explosion and fire aboard the drilling platform that marked the beginning of a three-month battle as millions of gallons of oil spewed into the Gulf.
The investigation showed rig workers may have overlooked some developments and disregarded others as indications mounted throughout the day that trouble was brewing.
E-mail Michael Peltier at firstname.lastname@example.org.