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Transocean Blames BP

Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded last year on April 20, 2010 killing 11 oil rig workers and spread millions of gallons of oil across gulf waters and beaches, has issued an extensive report Wednesday that points most of the blame at BP, the owner of the Macondo well.

In the Transocean 854 page report released on Wednesday, Transocean said the Deepwater Horizon explosion that occurred on April 20, 2010 and resulting oil spill was the result of a “succession of interrelated well design, construction, and temporary abandonment decisions that compromised the integrity of the well and compounded the risk of its failure.” Transocean said many of the decisions were made by well owner BP in the two weeks before the incident.

The cement pumped into the well the day before the blowout was the first system to fail, the report says, but BP’s repeated failure to take appropriate precautions in the days and hours before the accident contributed to the failure.

The report also faults cement contractor Halliburton for not adequately testing the cement or communicating the risks of the mix.

It also appears a device built by Weatherford International that was supposed to prevent back flow up the well casing “likely failed,” the report says.

Transocean admits its rig workers failed to see the earliest signs that a blowout was imminent, but said BP failed to give the workers adequate information about the risks of prior decisions.

Transocean said all of those decisions, “many made by the operator, BP, in the two weeks leading up to the incident,” were “driven by BP’s knowledge that the geological window for safe drilling was becoming increasingly narrow.” Halliburton, which was in charge of the operation to seal off the well, did not properly test the cement used in that process, and BP did not verify the results, according to the Transocean report
The Transocean report was the culmination of work by an internal investigation team comprised of experts from various technical fields and other specialists. Transocean said the loss of evidence with the rig and the unavailability of certain witnesses limited its investigation and analysis in some areas.

The findings conclude:

• BP did not properly communicate to the drill crew the lack of testing on the cement or the uncertainty surrounding critical tests and procedures used to confirm the integrity of the barriers intended to inhibit the flow from the well.

• BP adopted a technically complex nitrogen foam cement programme for sealing the well. The resulting cementing job was of minimal quantity, left little margin for error, and was not tested adequately before or after the cementing operation. Further, the integrity of the cement may have been compromised by contamination, instability, and an inadequate number of devices used to center the casing in the wellbore.

The New York Times:

The report stated it did not “represent the legal position of Transocean, nor does it attempt to assign legal responsibility or fault,” a statement that was greeted with seeming incredulity by BP spokesman Scott Dean.

Dean, called the report an “advocacy piece” that underplayed Transocean’s role and “cherry-picked the facts in support of its litigation strategy.”

BP, he said, “has stepped up to its responsibilities and cooperated with all official investigations regarding the accident,” while Transocean “continues to take every opportunity to avoid its responsibilities.”

Other reports, including BP’s own, have found a larger role for Transocean. A report in April by the United States Coast Guard spread the blame broadly among companies involved in the well, citing problems at Transocean that included inadequate maintenance and training and a “poor safety culture.”

Edward J. Markey, Democrat Representative of Massachusetts, a frequent critic of the oil industry, dismissed Transocean’s report as “the newest salvo in the continuing circular finger-pointing contest among BP, Transocean, Halliburton and others involved in the gulf oil spill.”

“The oil industry should share responsibility for keeping their workers and American waters safe, instead of relying on their lawyers to stake out the best position for their company following a disaster,” Markey said.

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