Final Report on Deepwater Horizon Fixes Chief Blame on BP

The BOEMRE panel released its report Sept. 14, dedicating it to the 11 workers killed in the explosion and praising rescue work by nearby vessels and crews that helped 115 survivors evacuate safely.

In a newly released final report, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement's investigating panel concludes that multiple failures caused the April 2010 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, while laying most of the blame on BP. The 217-page report is sure to be pored over by all parties involved in the drilling operation and subsequent oil spill cleanup, as well as by federal regulators and companies involved in offshore exploration and production.

The report's many recommendations include several focused on the blowout preventer (BOP), a 350-ton stack of safety valves and shutoff equipment that failed to shear off the drill pipe and halt the flow of hydrocarbons from the seabed as designed. The panel said federal regulators should consider researching the effects of a flowing well on the ability of a subsea BOP to shear pipe and also should consider researching a blind shear ram design that incorporates an improved pipe-centering shear ram. (DNV examined the damaged BOP after it was raised and concluded pressure temporarily buckled the pipe, so it was not centered in a way the allowed the blind shear ram to cut it successfully.)

The panel also urged regulators to consider revising 30 CFR 250.450(e) to define BOP testing "problems or irregularities." They found BP's daily operations reports noted that a pilot leak existed on one of the control pods over the course of 17 days and existed while the required BOP function and pressure testing occurred. "Operators should be required to report irregularities, such as this type of leak," they recommended.

BP posted this statement in response to the report: "BP agrees with the report's core conclusion consistent with every other official investigation that the Deepwater Horizon accident was the result of multiple causes, involving multiple parties, including Transocean and Halliburton. From the outset, BP acknowledged its role in the accident and has taken concrete steps to further enhance safety and risk management throughout its global operations, including the implementation of new voluntary standards and practices in the Gulf of Mexico that exceed current regulatory requirements and strengthen the oversight of contractors. We continue to encourage other parties to acknowledge their roles in the accident and make changes to help prevent similar accidents in the future."

The report lists numerous factors as contributing causes of the explosion and well blowout. These include the rig crew's failure to stop work after encountering multiple hazards and warnings, that BP performed no formal risk assessment of critical operational decisions in the days leading up to the blowout, and BP's "failure to document, evaluate, approve, and communicate changes associated with Deepwater Horizon personnel and operations." While BP and Transocean, which owned the drilling rig, had a bridging document that merged their respective safety programs, it did not address well control, and the rig crew was trained and operated in accordance with Transocean's manual, the report states.

Transocean could not produce as-built drawings showing how the BOP components worked and were configured because those were kept on the rig and were lost when it sank, so throughout the response, drawings had to be updated in accordance with what was observed from cameras on remotely operated vehicles used in attempts to cut the pipe and stop the spill, it says.

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