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In report on gulf oil spill, BP spreads the blame

A day after the blowout on BP's Macondo oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, crews battled the blaze on the damaged rig. BP's internal report on the disaster emphasizes "shared responsibility."
A day after the blowout on BP's Macondo oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, crews battled the blaze on the damaged rig. BP's internal report on the disaster emphasizes "shared responsibility." (U.s. Coast Guard Via Associated Press)

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Instead, Hayward, who has agreed to step down Oct. 1, said, "It is evident that a series of complex events, rather than a single mistake or failure, led to the tragedy." He added, "Multiple parties, including BP, Halliburton and Transocean, were involved."

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BP's contractors fired back at the company, as did some members of Congress who think BP should shoulder responsibility for the accident and be harshly punished for the damage to the Gulf Coast's environment and economy.

Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said that "BP is happy to slice up blame, as long as they get the smallest piece."

Transocean, the world's largest operator of deepwater drilling rigs, issued a statement saying, "This is a self-serving report that attempts to conceal the critical factor that set the stage for the Macondo incident: BP's fatally flawed well design." It added: "In both its design and construction, BP made a series of cost-saving decisions that increased risk - in some cases, severely."

Halliburton fires back

Halliburton also decried the report, in which it was faulted for using too much nitrogen in a foamlike cement mixture that BP's team said was "very likely unstable" and that one investigator compared to shaving cream going flat. The report said that Halliburton had not properly tested the cement slurry and that requests for samples from Halliburton were rebuffed. But BP asked an independent lab to create a "representative sample," based on the known design of the cement, and found through its own testing that, as investigator Kent Corsor put it, "The slurry was too thin."

Halliburton replied in a statement that "the well owner is responsible for designing the well program and any testing related to the well. Contractors do not specify well design or make decisions regarding testing procedures as that responsibility lies with the well owner."

Halliburton added that BP's report has "a number of substantial omissions and inaccuracies," but it did not say what those are.

Weatherford declined to comment.

BP said that even in the final minutes before the explosion, disaster might have been averted if the gas had been directed off the rig. Instead it was sent to a mud gas separator, which vented the gas onto the rig.

One issue that BP's critics have cited has been the company's decision to use only six instead of 21 centralizers, devices for centering the drill pipe in the well.

But the BP report said that there was no evidence of "channeling" by gas above the main oil- and gas-bearing reservoir, and that as a result the decision to go ahead with just six centralizers "likely did not contribute to the cement's failure to isolate the main hydrocarbon zones."

The BP investigatory group, in an effort to avoid internal conflicts, drew on internal drilling experts from places such as Alaska rather than the Gulf of Mexico. The group also brought in outside experts and hired third parties to conduct tests. They drew on interviews with rig workers, e-mails and data transmitted to shore.

But they lacked evidence from inside the blowout preventer, which was lifted from the sea floor Friday and is in government custody.

Though BP officials said the investigation team had been given wide authority and independence, Bly said he briefed executives and board members on several occasions. And the investigation did not address issues of the company's safety culture.

Asked whether the probe overlapped with his area of responsibility, Bly said that he dealt "at a very high level." He said, "You could say that the investigation caused me to investigate things related to me," but "it's a somewhat distant linkage."

He said he does not believe that widely cited pressures to save time and money on the expensive rig were to blame for the disaster. "My view is that we didn't see any indications that support that."

mufsons@washpost.com hilzenrath@washpost.com

Staff writer Joel Achenbach contributed to this report.


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