Journalism in the Public Interest

More Questions About BP’s Limited Investigation Into Gulf Disaster


Kent Corser, a drilling engineer manager with BP, testifies before the National Academy of Engineering committee on Sept. 26, 2010, in Washington, D.C. (Cliff Owen/AP Photo)

BP investigators, faced with questions about their report on the causes of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, acknowledged Sunday before a panel of engineering experts that their report had limitations.

"It is clear that you could go further into the analysis," the report's chief investigator, Mark Bly, who was head of BP's safety and operations. "This does not represent a complete penetration into potentially deeper issues.” Bly called his team’s report “a good foundation for further work.”

Here’s what The Washington Post noted about how the report was produced:

Conclusions were made without examining the drilling rig, which remains on the sea floor, or the blowout preventer, a key safety device that was brought to shore only recently. Instead, the company relied extensively on real-time data collected aboard the rig to reconstruct what happened. BP also did not have access to samples of the cement used to seal the well, and said Halliburton refused to supply a similar mix for testing. BP has said the cement failed.

The panel also questioned why BP left out other items from the report, including an analysis of possible organizational flaws and hiccups in the chain of command, as well as more information on the rig’s workers. The panel of experts—created jointly by the National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council—is investigating at the request of the Interior Department. 

The experts also questioned Halliburton on why it allowed BP to proceed, even though BP had installed only six of the recommended 21 centering devices before cementing. (Halliburton’s vice president of cementing, Thomas Roth, said the company “didn’t see it to be an unsafe operation as it was being executed,” and BP had the ultimate decision-making responsibility, Bloomberg reported.)

As we’ve noted, BP’s report emphasized the significance of decisions by others—primarily Halliburton—in its assessment of how the blowout began. The report also dismissed the role that BP's choice of well design played in the disaster and minimized BP's decision not to fully implement Halliburton recommendations in the run-up to the blowout. Some of the more interesting tidbits in the report, we’ve also noted, were buried in little-noticed appendices.

One panelist, Stanford geophysicist Mark Zoback, put forward another theory on the cause of the blowout, The Wall Street Journal reported. Zoback noted that the loss of fluid during cementing could have been because of cracks in the rock formations at the bottom of the well. 

“I'd like to just maintain the possibility that one reason that the cement job may have failed was because of fracking at the time of cementing,” Zoback said. According to the Journal, if Zoback’s theory is right, it would “undercut BP’s effort” to deflect criticism of its well design.

In the hearing, BP stood by its design choice. Kent Corser, a drilling engineer manager with BP, told the panel that its well had “a robust design”; Roth, of Halliburton, said that the design had “compromised well integrity.”

The panel is expected to issue a preliminary report before the end of October, and a final report by the end of the year.

This is simply a political ploy to make it seem as though the government cares about the gulf disaster.

When in fact it is the government who deserves the blame for this atrocity.

Which includes overriding Louisianas original proposal to allow BP to drill in 500 ft of water, not the 5000 ft of water that the government stipulated(forced).

Never mind the fact that no oil rig has ever dealt with a situation within 5000 ft of water.

There is enough blame to go around to all parties, but BP is ultimately responsible. They had, from their own report, numerous clear indications of impending problems that were just systematically ignored.

Yes, because OSHA reports go to the heart of the matter don’t they?

No, those safety precautions put into place by that supposed protector of all things chemical are the ones responsible for allowing BP the role they played in this disaster.

“WMR learned that BP was able to have several safety checks waved because of the high-level interest by the White House and Pentagon in tapping the Gulf of Mexico bonanza find in order to plan a military attack on Iran without having to be concerned about an oil and natural gas shortage from the Persian Gulf after an outbreak of hostilities with Iran.”

-Wayne Madsen from the site

I have to disagree Frank, BP is not responsible for the damages termed “acceptable” by the government, it is only responsible if it had been the sole instigator of this disaster, which it clearly was not.

I still cannot believe that the insufferable BP apologist, Mr. Joe Barton of Texas wasn’t booted out of Washington on his corrupt BP bought and paid for ass…Energy and Commerce Chair persons should ostrasize this insensitive hog slob of A piss poor excuse of A human being….Unfknbelievable conduct for A Representative of this country!!!!

Alan M Dransfield

Oct. 4, 2010, 3:18 p.m.

If the Deepwater Horizon was a plane, the FEDS would have brought it to the surface for their investigation. I suggest they should bring the DH rig to the surface which I feel would prove the point that BP have been lying thru their teeth from day 1.
This latest BP report is a further case of BULLSHIT.
Joe Barton and his posy of BP Managers have failed their duty of care.

Alan M Dransfield

Oct. 4, 2010, 3:24 p.m.

What lesson IF ANY have been learned from the BP debacle and the Exxonvaldeez.
Ziltch,absolutely nothing and I give you the Chad/Cameroon Pipeline (CCP)as a fine example. The CCP has been operating in a legal void for nearly 8 years and Exxon and the World Bank are FULLY aware of this. It is illegal due to FACT it has not been provisioned with the minimum safeguards, no oil spill plans, no environmental protection,no capacity , no transparency , no bullshit.
The World Bank washed their hands on this and ran away from the legal responsibilities. Exxon are knowingly and wilfully circumventing international laws and kissing ass of the Despot Deby

I would say the lesson learned from the Gulf spill is that,

“this is what you get when you allow government the right to decide who gets to drill without supervision of the private market.”

This is especially true of the corporations that take advantage of special interests within congress. None of these disasters whould have been possible if the government hadn’t stepped in and allowed them to happen.

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Gulf Oil Spill

The BP oil disaster in the Gulf has had untold health, economic and environmental effects.

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