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BP internal investigation report leaves some things unsaid

Oil giant BP laid much of the blame for the rig explosion and the massive Gulf of Mexico spill on workers at sea, other companies and a complex series of failures in an internal report Wednesday.

"It's not something that we've ever done before," he said.

At a government hearing in August, BP manager David Sims was asked if he had ever used a similar mixture as a spacer.

"No, I have not," Sims said.

The BP report spreads much of the responsibility for the catastrophic blowout to other companies involved in the well operation, and it concludes that some of BP's most widely criticized decisions in the construction of the well probably did not contribute to the disaster.

Other companies involved in the operation have challenged the report's credibility, saying it is flawed and self-serving.

The report faults some aspects of BP's performance. For example, it says BP personnel misinterpreted the results of the pressure test, failing to recognize the danger. And it says BP did not do enough to assess the allegedly unsuccessful cement job.

But the report endorses a relatively benign explanation of BP's decision to use six devices called centralizers to stabilize the pipe in the well instead of the 21 recommended by contractor Halliburton. The report attributes it to an erroneous belief that BP did not have the right kind of centralizers on hand --- though it does not explain how such a mistake could happen --- and it says the decision probably did not contribute to the disaster.

In contrast, Democratic leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have cited an internal BP e-mail as evidence that the company was interested in saving time and money.

In a statement after BP released the results of the Bly team investigation, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the energy and commerce committee, said the report "glosses over the role and responsibility of BP" and "regrettably does not address the corporate culture at BP that shortchanged safety and caused so much harm to the Gulf and the Deepwater Horizon workers."

The Bly team reached some conclusions that are difficult for the general reader to assess given their highly technical nature. The spacer issue is, in some respects, less complex.

Bly, who is BP's head of safety and operations, said that using the leftover fluids in the pressure test "would have been fine" if the material had not penetrated an area where it did not belong.

The report says M-I SWACO reviewed the mixture's properties and recommended it as suitable.

In his July testimony, Lindner of M-I SWACO said, "[W]e had the product there, and BP wanted to use it."

Lindner said to assess its suitability, he mixed a gallon of Form-A-Set in equal parts with Form-A-Squeeze and left it overnight to observe the reaction.

The amount of the fluid used in the test of the well's integrity was roughly double the volume of spacer usually used in pressure tests, Lindner said.

The Bly report's most detailed discussion of the spacer is contained in Appendix Q, which was not included in the 234-page document distributed at Wednesday's briefing. (Appendices A to H are in the printed document; the rest was issued electronically.)

Appendix Q says that, according to an M-I Swaco mud engineer, use of the mixture as a spacer "was not standard."

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