BP plc (NYSE: BP) in its internal report on the Deepwater Horizon incident made certain that there was plenty of blame to go around.
It is evident that a series of complex events, rather than a single mistake or failure, led to the tragedy. Multiple parties, including BP, Halliburton and Transocean, were involved.
Out-going CEO Tony Hayward did not put any of the burden of the accident’s causes on himself or his senior management:
“To put it simply, there was a bad cement job and a failure of the shoe track barrier at the bottom of the well, which let hydrocarbons from the reservoir into the production casing. The negative pressure test was accepted when it should not have been, there were failures in well control procedures and in the blow-out preventer; and the rig’s fire and gas system did not prevent ignition.
The longer litany of causes:
- The cement and shoe track barriers – and in particular the cement slurry that was used – at the bottom of the Macondo well failed to contain hydrocarbons within the reservoir, as they were designed to do, and allowed gas and liquids to flow up the production casing;
- The results of the negative pressure test were incorrectly accepted by BP and Transocean, although well integrity had not been established;
- Over a 40-minute period, the Transocean rig crew failed to recognise and act on the influx of hydrocarbons into the well until the hydrocarbons were in the riser and rapidly flowing to the surface;
- After the well-flow reached the rig it was routed to a mud-gas separator, causing gas to be vented directly on to the rig rather than being diverted overboard;
- The flow of gas into the engine rooms through the ventilation system created a potential for ignition which the rig’s fire and gas system did not prevent;
- Even after explosion and fire had disabled its crew-operated controls, the rig’s blow-out preventer on the sea-bed should have activated automatically to seal the well. But it failed to operate, probably because critical components were not working.
Douglas A. McIntyre