'Systemic' problems led to oil spill

2011-01-06 11:17
Washington - The deadly Gulf of Mexico oil spill was the result of "systemic" management problems and could recur if reforms are not embraced, a US presidential panel probing the disaster said on Wednesday.

The assessment by the National Oil Spill Commission was in a chapter from its report on the deadly blowout on April 20 2010, of BP's Macondo well, which killed 11 workers and for nearly three months spewed more than four million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The blowout "was the product of several individual missteps and oversights by BP, Halliburton, and Transocean, which government regulators lacked the authority, the necessary resources, and the technical expertise to prevent", read the advance chapter.

Offshore drilling group Transocean owned the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon platform that sank in the accident. Oil services giant Halliburton in October admitted skipping a key cement test before the blowout, but blamed BP for not testing the integrity of the job.

The root causes of the blowout "are systemic and, absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, might well recur", the chapter read. The full report is due out on January 11.

'Avoidable'

"Whether purposeful or not, many of the decisions that BP, Halliburton, and Transocean made that increased the risk of the Macondo blowout clearly saved those companies significant time (and money)," the chapter also notes.

The findings "only compound our sense of tragedy because we know now that the blowout of the Macondo well was avoidable", said former Florida senator Bob Graham, the commission co-chair.

"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."

According to the report, the Macondo well blew out when a series of "separate risk factors, oversights, and outright mistakes combined to overwhelm the safeguards" designed to prevent such an event.

"But most of the mistakes and oversights at Macondo can be traced back to a single overarching failure - a failure of management," the report says.

"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," the report said.

"Given the documented failings of both Transocean and Halliburton, both of which serve the off shore industry in virtually every ocean, I reluctantly conclude we have a system-wide problem," said commission co-chair, former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator William Reilly.

The seven-member panel was set up by US President Barack Obama and tasked with finding out what caused the accident.
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