Oil Spill Commission: Gulf disaster could have been prevented

The president’s Oil Spill Commission—officially the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling—has presented its report to the White House and will officially disband on March 11. The report concludes that BP was long aware of problems with cementing work performed by Halliburton, which was among the contractors on BP’s Macondo well. The report finds that the “root technical cause” of last April’s blowout was inadequate cementing. “BP’s failures are especially troubling because it had previously identified several relevant areas for concern during a 2007 audit of Halliburton’s capabilities,” the report states.

More generally, the report traces the spill to management errors by all the companies involved in the Deepwater Horizon rig. “The sad fact is that this was an entirely preventable disaster,” said the Commission’s chief counsel Fred Bartlit. He said the report determined the “root technical cause” of the blowout that killed 11 workers and unleashed the spill was a failure of “the cement that BP and Halliburton pumped to the bottom of the well.”

The report finds: “BP did not fully appreciate all of the risks that Macondo presented. It did not adequately supervise the work of its contractors, who in turn did not deliver to BP all of the benefits of their expertise. BP personnel on the rig were not properly trained and supported, and all three companies failed to communicate key information to people who could have made a difference.”

It also notes: “A BP engineering reorganization in early 2010 resulted in delays and distractions for the team drilling the Macondo well.” It charges that Deepwater Horizon rig owner Transocean did not adequately train workers in emergency procedures and so-called kick detection. (Houston Business Journal, March 4; Houston Chronicle, The Hill, Feb. 17)

BP has just won a lucrative oil contract in Russia.

See our last post on the politics of oil spills, the Gulf of Mexico disaster, and petro-oligarchical rule.

Please leave a tip or answer the Exit Poll.

  1. Transocean awards execs bonuses for 2010 “safety”
    Jeff McMahon blogs for Forbes April 2:

    Transocean Ltd., owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, awarded millions of dollars in bonuses to its executives after “the best year in safety performance in our company’s history,” according to an annual report and proxy statement released yesterday…

    “Notwithstanding the tragic loss of life in the Gulf of Mexico, we achieved an exemplary statistical safety record as measured by our total recordable incident rate and total potential severity rate,” Transocean states in the filing. “As measured by these standards, we recorded the best year in safety performance in our Company’s history, which is a reflection on our commitment to achieving an incident free environment, all the time, everywhere.”

    Transocean President and Chief Executive Officer Steven L. Newman received about $4.3 million in cash bonuses and stock and option awards. With other compensation—such as pension increases and cost of living, housing, and automobile allowances—Newman earned $6.6 million in 2010, almost $1 million more than in 2009.

    His base salary, $900,000 in 2010, will increase 22 percent to $1.1 million in 2011.

    Transocean built and staffed the Deepwater Horizon. It was leased by BP, which denied most executives bonuses in 2010. In justifying the bonuses, Transocean cites the increased burden on executives of responding to the spill…

    I think we should file this one under “Oh my fucking God.”

  2. BP says Halliburton destroyed Gulf spill evidence
    File under “falling-out among thieves…” From Reuters, Dec. 5:

    BP Plc accused Halliburton Co of destroying evidence that the oilfield services company did inadequate cement work on the Gulf of Mexico oil well that blew out last year, and asked a federal judge to punish Halliburton.

    The accusation, in a BP court filing, raises the stakes ahead of a trial, expected in late February, to assign blame and damages for the April 2010 blowout of the Macondo well, which triggered the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

    Citing recent depositions and Halliburton’s own documents, BP said Halliburton “intentionally” destroyed the results of slurry testing for the well, in part to “eliminate any risk that this evidence would be used against it at trial.”

    The oil company also said Halliburton appeared to have lost computer evidence showing how the cement performed, with Halliburton maintaining that the information is simply “gone.”

    BP asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans, who oversees spill litigation, to sanction Halliburton by ruling that Halliburton’s slurry design was “unstable,” a finding of fact that could be used at trial.