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BP report faults partners in spill

Move seen as legal strategy

NEW ORLEANS | BP took some of the blame for the Gulf oil disaster in an internal report issued Wednesday, acknowledging that it misread a key pressure test of the well. But in a possible preview of its legal strategy, the oil giant also pointed the finger at its partners on the doomed rig.

The highly technical, 193-page report attributes the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history and the rig explosion that set it off to a complex chain of failures both human and mechanical. Some of those problems have been made public over the past 4 1/2 months, such as the failure of the blowout preventer to clamp the well shut.

Government investigators have not yet begun to fully analyze the blowout preventer, which was raised from the bottom of the sea over Labor Day weekend.

But the BP survey provides an early look at the company's probable legal strategy - doling out some of the blame to rig owner Transocean and cement contractor Halliburton - as it deals with hundreds of lawsuits, billions of dollars in claims and possible criminal charges in the coming months and years.

Critics of BP called the report self-serving.

"This report is not BP's mea culpa," said Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, a member of a congressional panel investigating the spill. "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's conclusions stand in contrast to a widely seen BP ad campaign in which the company casts no blame for the explosion and vows to clean up and restore the Gulf Coast.

"BP blaming others for the Gulf oil disaster is like Bernie Madoff blaming his accountant," said Robert Gordon, an attorney for fishermen, hotels and restaurants affected by the spill.

The disaster began when the Deepwater Horizon exploded off the coast of Louisiana on April 20, killing 11 workers. BP's well spewed what has been estimatd at more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf before a temporary cap stopped it in mid-July.

Members of Congress, industry experts and workers who survived the blast have accused BP's engineers of cutting corners to save time and money on a project that was 43 days and more than $20 million behind schedule at the time of the blast.

Nearly 24 hours before the explosion, Halliburton was using cement to seal the gap between the well casing and the hole drilled in the seafloor. It was also cementing the bottom of the well shut until the day BP was ready to begin extracting oil and gas from it.

In its report, BP said that it was a bad cementing job that contributed to the blowout and that the design of the well was probably not to blame. It also said "more thorough review and testing by Halliburton" and "stronger quality assurance" by BP's well team might have identified weaknesses in the plan for cementing.

The report acknowledged, as investigators have previously suggested, that BP's engineers and employees of Transocean misinterpreted a pressure test of the well's integrity before the explosion.

"The Transocean rig crew and BP well-site leaders reached the incorrect view that the test was successful and that well integrity had been established," the investigators said.

They also blamed employees on the rig from both companies for failing to respond to other warning signs that the well was in danger of blowing out.

Transocean officials blasted the report as a self-serving attempt to conceal what they said was the real cause of the explosion - "BP's fatally flawed well design."

Halliburton said it found a number of omissions and inaccuracies in the report and is confident the work it completed on the well met BP's specifications. "Contractors do not specify well design or make decisions regarding testing procedures, as that responsibility lies with the well owner," the company said.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs noted "there is an active investigation into what went wrong" and said the administration's job is to find out what happened and hold those responsible accountable. Federal prosecutors are among those investigating.

AP correspondent Dina Cappiello contributed to this report from Washington.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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