BP blames self, others for oil spill

NEW ORLEANS — BP took some of the blame for the Gulf oil disaster in an internal report issued Wednesday, acknowledging among other things that it misinterpreted a key pressure test of the well.

NEW ORLEANS — BP took some of the blame for the Gulf oil disaster in an internal report issued Wednesday, acknowledging among other things that it misinterpreted a key pressure test of the well.

But in a possible preview of its legal strategy, it 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.

The report is far from the definitive ruling on the cause of the catastrophe. For one thing, government investigators have not yet begun to fully analyze the blowout preventer, which was raised from the bottom of the sea last weekend.

But it provides an early look at the company’s probable legal strategy — spreading the blame among itself, 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 Democratic Rep. Edward J. Markey, 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. Another plaintiff’s lawyer, W. Mark Lanier, scoffed: “This is like the ringleader of a lynch mob saying, ’Well, I didn’t bring the rope; he did.”’

The disaster began when the Deepwater Horizon exploded off the coast of Louisiana on April 20, killing 11 workers. BP’s well spewed more than 200 million gallons (757 million litres) 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.

The words “blame” and “mistake” never appear in the report. “Fault” shows up 20 times, but only once in the same sentence as the company’s name.

“The team did not identify any single action or inaction that caused this accident,” the investigators said. “Rather, a complex and interlinked series of mechanical failures, human judgments, engineering design, operational implementation and team interfaces came together to allow the initiation and escalation of the accident. Multiple companies, work teams and circumstances were involved over time.”

Mark Bly, who as BP’s safety chief led the internal investigation, said the report was a reconstruction of what happened on the rig based on the company’s data and interviews with mostly BP employees and was not meant to focus on assigning blame. The six-person investigating panel had access to only a few workers from other companies, and samples of the actual cement used in the well were not released to BP.

Transocean blasted the report as a self-serving attempt to conceal what it called 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.

In Wednesday trading in New York, BP stock rose $1.18, or 3.2 per cent, to close at $38.37.

Investigators know the explosion was triggered by a bubble of methane gas that shot up the drill column and ignited. But they don’t know exactly how and why the gas escaped. And they don’t know for certain why the blowout preventer didn’t work.

But in its report, BP said the blowout preventer didn’t do its job because it was damaged in the explosion and because it had a bad valve and weak batteries. Transocean, which was responsible for maintaining the blowout preventer, has insisted the batteries were in working order.

Several divisions of the U.S. government, including the Justice Department and Coast Guard, are also investigating the explosion.

A report released Wednesday by the Interior Department says the agency — recently renamed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement — should increase the number and training of inspectors; conduct more surprise inspections; and stiffen fines and civil penalties on companies found to violate federal rules.

Separately on Wednesday, the Obama administration said it sent a sixth bill, for $128.5 million, to BP and others for costs associated with the spill. The first five bills, totalling $389.9 million, have been paid in full by BP, the government said.

The disaster has already cost BP roughly $8 billion, not including a $20 billion victims’ compensation fund it has agreed to set up.

———

Cappiello reported from Washington. Associated Press Writers Curt Anderson in Miami, Chris Kahn in New York and Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report.

———

Online:

www.bp.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney updates media on measures taken to help with COVID-19, in Edmonton on Friday, March 20, 2020. Alberta is set to join three other provinces in exploring the feasibility of small modular reactors as a clean energy option. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Four provinces to sign memorandum of understanding to explore small nuclear reactors

Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick sign memorandum of understanding

FILE - In this Nov. 17, 2016, file photo, Chris Kempczinski, then-incoming president of McDonald’s USA, speaks during a presentation at a McDonald’s restaurant in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood. On Wednesday, April 14, 2021, McDonald’s said the company will mandate worker training to combat harassment, discrimination and violence in its restaurants worldwide starting in 2022. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
McDonald’s to mandate anti-harassment training worldwide

New standards starting in January 2022

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircrafts are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet says it will extend its temporary suspension of international sun flights to destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean until June 4. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
WestJet extends temporary suspension of international sun flights until June

Customers with affected itineraries will be notified of cancellations

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, right, and United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken participate in a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Brussels on Wednesday for talks with European and NATO allies about Afghanistan, Ukraine and other matters. (Kenzo Tribouillard, Pool via AP)
US co-ordinates Afghanistan pullout with NATO withdrawal

Attacks on U.S. troops have largely paused but that Taliban attacks on the Afghans increased

Demonstrators take cover from crowd-dispersal munitions from police outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department while protesting the shooting death of Daunte Wright, late Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Minnesota shooting charging decision awaited, protests go on

Police and protesters faced off once again after nightfall Tuesday

In this Nov. 12, 1995, file photo, Buffalo Bills head coach Marv Levy looks on during the second quarter of the Bills game against the Atlanta Falcons at Rich Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Bill Sikes, File
Former Alouettes head coach Marv Levy tops 2021 Canadian Football Hall of Fame class

The ‘21 class will boost the Hall of Fame’s membership to 316

Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, provides an update on health system preparations in Nova Scotia for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, in Halifax on Friday, March 6, 2020. Strang says plans are in place to stage the women’s world hockey championship in the province next month with limited spectators.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Nova Scotia plans to allow limited crowds at women’s world hockey championship

All 10 teams in Halifax and Truro must participate in a 14-day quarantine

”Kim’s Convenience” cast member Andrew Phung poses in this undated handout photo. “Kim’s Convenience” has just ended but Andrew Phung is already “knee-deep in ideas and stories” for his next project, “Run the Burbs.” The Calgary-raised actor, who played comical car-rental employee Kimchee on “Kim’s,” co-created the upcoming comedy series and will star in it as a stay-at-home dad with an entrepreneur wife and two kids. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - CBC
‘Kim’s Convenience’ actor Andrew Phung on crafting his own series, ‘Run the Burbs’

‘Run the Burbs’ production could start in the summer or fall

Canisia Lubrin poses in this undated handout photo. Rising literary talent Canisia Lubrin is among the Canadian finalists for the $65,000 Griffin Poetry Prize. The Griffin Trust announced the three homegrown wordsmiths and four international poets on this year’s short list on Wednesday. Lubrin, who recently received the US$165,000 Windham-Campbell Prize, is nominated for “The Dyzgraphxst” (pronounced diss-graff-ist), published by McClelland and Stewart. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Anna Keenan
Rising writer Canisia Lubrin among Canadian finalists for $65K Griffin Poetry Prize

Griffin will award two winners, one international and one Canadian

A prairie fire in the Burnt Lake district. (Photo by Bert Fors via Red Deer Archives)
Michael Dawe: Fires of spring 1931 in central Alberta

Central Alberta has just come through a relatively warm and dry winter… Continue reading

Gwynne Dyer
Opinion: Boris Johnson is to blame for what’s happening in Ireland

Twenty-three years of peace in Northern Ireland, after a sectarian war that… Continue reading

Canada's Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes, fom left, celebrate after winning women's gold medal match against Brazil's team at the Beach Volley Worldtour Major Series, in Vienna, Austria on August 4, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ronald Zak
Canada’s world champion beach volleyball duo finally getting games before Tokyo

Canada’s world champion beach volleyball duo finally getting games before Tokyo

Toronto Raptors center Khem Birch (24) gets fouled by Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (13) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Bogdanovic, Capela lead Hawks past Raptors 107-103

Bogdanovic, Capela lead Hawks past Raptors 107-103

Most Read