BP Oil Spill Result of Management Failures, Presidential Commission Says

The BP oil spill is being blamed on a range of management failures on the part of the oil giant, as well as other companies involved in the Macondo well endeavor. According to various media reports, the presidential commission investigating the BP oil spill has also concluded that both the industry and the federal government need to make major changes to ensure the safety of offshore drilling.

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 conclusion of the seven-member BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Commission were delivered yesterday, following two days of deliberations. The panel will deliver its recommendations and findings to President Obama next month.

According to a report from Dow Jones Newswires, the panel’s staff cited management failures at BP as well its contractors Halliburton Co., which performed cement work on the well, and Transocean Ltd. owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. However, most of the blame was levied on BP. For example, the panel’s staff found that in 10 of 11 decisions that may have increased risk, BP was solely responsible for six of those decisions. In most instances the decision makers were on shore and not on the rig, the staff found, Dow Jones said.

“Many decisions taken on the rig, one at a time, turned out to add to the risk of the operation” and cascaded into a preventable disaster, Richard Sears, the commission’s senior science adviser, said.

According to Dow Jones, the commission’s staff found the oil company “did not have policies and systems in place” to “ensure that decisions made to reduce costs and improve efficiency do not increase risks or diminish safety.” It said if it did have policies, those policies were not enforced at the Macondo well.

The commission’s staff found, among other things, that BP, Transocean and Halliburton “failed to communicate adequately.” BP “did not share important information with its contractors, or sometimes even within its own team,” and “contractors did not share important information with BP or with each other,” Dow Jones said.

The commission staff also said that a review of international offshore drilling accidents dating back to 1977 indicated that BP disaster was “not a fluke.” According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, the commission found that the Obama administration’s efforts to reorganize the federal agencies charged with overseeing the industry have not gone far enough. It is recommending the creation of a completely new federal agency – in the Interior Department but outside of the ocean energy bureau – that would focus on safety issues and environmental analysis.

The commission also called on the industry to do more self-policing, by establishing an aggressive safety institute like one set up by the nuclear power sector after the 1979 partial meltdown at Three Mile Island.

“We are not dealing here with a sick or a failing or an unsuccessful industry,” William Reilly, commission co-chairman, said, “but with a complacent one.”

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