After five months of investigations, soul-searching and naval-gazing, BP’s released its report today summarising exactly how a catastrophe such as their Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster could have occurred. And it’s a doozy.
Amazingly, BP isn’t shouldering the blame themselves. Oh no. Instead, they’ve generously spread it amongst the “multiple companies and work teams” who were involved (listing BP, Halliburton and Transocean as just several of the “parties”), with the soon-to-be-former CEO of BP Tony Hayward explaining that “there was a bad cement job and a failure of the shoe track barrier at the bottom of the well, which let hydrocarbons from the reservoir into the production casing. The negative pressure test was accepted when it should not have been, there were failures in well control procedures and in the blow-out preventer; and the rig’s fire and gas system did not prevent ignition.”
The following reasons also contributed to the spill:
* The cement and shoe track barriers – and in particular the cement slurry that was used – at the bottom of the Macondo well failed to contain hydrocarbons within the reservoir, as they were designed to do, and allowed gas and liquids to flow up the production casing;
* The results of the negative pressure test were incorrectly accepted by BP and Transocean, although well integrity had not been established;
* Over a 40-minute period, the Transocean rig crew failed to recognise and act on the influx of hydrocarbons into the well until the hydrocarbons were in the riser and rapidly flowing to the surface;
* After the well-flow reached the rig it was routed to a mud-gas separator, causing gas to be vented directly on to the rig rather than being diverted overboard;
* The flow of gas into the engine rooms through the ventilation system created a potential for ignition which the rig’s fire and gas system did not prevent;
* Even after explosion and fire had disabled its crew-operated controls, the rig’s blow-out preventer on the sea-bed should have activated automatically to seal the well. But it failed to operate, probably because critical components were not working.
With 11 dead and thousands of lives impacted – employees, fishermen, conservation workers, shareholders, not to mention the lives of the land and sea creatures either lost or damaged by the spill, it’s infuriating to see that BP can be so quick to point blame at other companies and people. Perhaps they’re equally to blame, yes, but when BP knew of the impending danger almost a year ago and didn’t do anything about it (indeed, they actually turned off the rig’s critical alarm system), I find the report is a difficult pill to swallow.