BP releases report on gulf well blowout

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.
By Steven Mufson and Joel Achenbach
Wednesday, September 8, 2010; 6:02 PM

BP released a long-awaited report Wednesday on an internal investigation into the causes of its Gulf of Mexico oil well blowout, blaming multiple failures by BP and other firms but absolving its much-criticized well design.

The BP report stressed that "no single factor" caused the April 20 blowout that killed 11 workers, sank the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and led to the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

Instead, with lawsuits and a Justice Department criminal investigation in progress, BP spread the blame widely, declaring the disaster a "shared responsibility."

In a news briefing after the report was released, investigation leader Mark Bly, BP's head of safety and operations, was asked whether BP sacrificed safety to save money, as other investigators have alleged. Bly replied that his team did not find anything to support that conclusion.

The report brought a sharp rebuke from one leading congressman, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

"Just as the environmental damage did not end with the capping of BP's well, this company-run investigation is not the end of the inquiries into the BP oil spill," he said in a statement. "This report is not BP's mea culpa. Of their own eight key findings, they only explicitly take responsibility for half of one. BP is happy to slice up blame, as long as they get the smallest piece."

The report on BP's four-month investigation by a team of more than 50 technical and other specialists said that "multiple companies and work teams" made decisions that contributed to the oil spill.

It cited the failure of the type of cement slurry that was used, along with a mechanical valve known as a shoe that is designed to let fluids flow only in one direction.

The report also said that BP and Transocean workers "incorrectly accepted" the results of a pressure test. And it added that over a crucial 40-minute period, the Transocean rig crew "failed to recognize and act on the influx of hydrocarbons into the well" when it might still have been possible to cut off the flow.

In addition, the report pointed to failures after that point. It said that the gas that surged to the rig should have been diverted overboard but was vented directly onto the rig and then through its ventilation system.

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

He added: "Based on the report, it would appear unlikely that the well design contributed to the incident, as the investigation found that the hydrocarbons flowed up the production casing through the bottom of the well."

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