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BP Gulf oil spill blamed on bad management

US National Commission investigating April’s Deepwater Horizon rig explosion heavily criticises the companies involved in the rig.

A raccoon walks in an oil-impacted area of marsh grass in Bay Jimmy near the Louisiana coast on 29 October, 2010.
A raccoon walks in an oil-impacted area of marsh grass in Bay Jimmy near the Louisiana coast on 29 October, 2010.
Image: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

A REPORT INTO THE BP oil spill off the US coast which released millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico has blamed bad management and cost-cutting for the accident.

Eleven people were killed in an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig in April which led to the oil spill. It took over 100 days to plug the leak.

President Barack Obama set up the National Commission on the BP Deepater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling in May to investigate the cause of the disaster and make recommendations to prevent future oil spills.

The group has released one chapter from its report, which will be published in full later this month.

The report criticises BP, Transocean and Halliburton for “several individual missteps and oversights” which led to the explosion. Investigators had previously reported that cement used by Halliburton at the oil rig was unstable and contributed to the blow-out. Transocean owned the Deepwater Horizon rig.

The Commission says:

The well blew out because a number of separate risk factors, oversights, and outright mistakes combined to overwhelm the safeguards meant to prevent just such an event from happening. But most of the mistakes and oversights at Macondo can be traced back to a single overarching failure—a failure of management.

Better management by BP, Halliburton, and Transocean would almost certainly have prevented the blowout by improving the ability of individuals involved to identify the risks they faced, and to properly evaluate, communicate, and address them.

Government regulation of the industry was also criticised. Commission co-chair Bob Graham said:

The Commission’s findings only compound our sense of tragedy because we know now that the blowout of the Macondo well was avoidable. This disaster likely would not have happened had the companies involved been guided by an unrelenting commitment to safety first. And it likely would not have happened if the responsible governmental regulators had the capacity and will to demand world class safety standards.

The Commission warns that without significant reform “in both industry practices and government policies”, another blow-out akin to the Deepwater Horizon explosion could “well recur”.

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