BP Oil Spill Commission Warns of Similar Disasters Without Reform

A presidential commissions report on the BP oil spill warns that such a disaster could happen again, thanks to systemic problems within the offshore oil and gas industry and government regulators who oversee it. According to the Associated Press, the report goes on to say that significant reforms are needed to prevent a repeat of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The BP oil spill began on April 20, 2010 with an explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that killed 11 men. Attempts to staunch the gusher failed, until a cap was successfully deployed over the undersea well on July 15. By that time, roughly 4.4 million barrels of oil had spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. The BP oil spill, which now ranks as the largest offshore oil disaster in US history, paralyzed important segments of the Gulf Coast’s economy, including seafood and tourism.

According to a 48-page excerpt of the National Commission report- which will be released in its entirety on January 11 – obtained by the Associated Press, poor decisions on the part of BP, Transocean Ltd. – owner of the rig – and Halliburton Corp. – a contractor on the rig – led to technical problems that contributed to the disaster. Individual decisions made by each of those parties, while saving significant time and money, upped the risk that a catastrophic blowout would occur, the report said. When such decisions were made, no one considered the accompanying risks.

“Whether purposeful or not, many of the decisions that BP, Halliburton, and Transocean made that increased the risk of the Macondo blow-out clearly saved those companies significant time (and money),” the presidential panel wrote.

“BP did not have adequate controls in place to ensure that key decisions in the months leading up to the blow-out were safe or sound from an engineering perspective.”

The excerpt reviewed by the Associated Press also points the finger at government regulators. For example, the commission found that a BP request to set an “unusually deep cement plug” was approved by the then-Minerals Management Service in 90 minutes. That decision was one of nine the commission found to have contributed to the disaster.

“The blowout was not the product of a series of abberational decisions made by a rogue industry or government officials that could not have been anticipated or expected to occur again. Rather, the root causes are systemic, and absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, might well recur,” the commission concluded.

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