September 15, 2011

Read This Now: Joint Investigation Report on BP Oil Spill

Yesterday, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and the Bureau of
Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) released two reports
based on the findings from the joint investigation team tasked with determining
the causes of the BP oil spill last year

The first
from the USCG builds off the
agency’s findings reported earlier this year on the overall response to the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico - it is worth a read. But for
those with time constraints, the more interesting findings about the causes of the BP
oil spill are in the BOEMRE report
.  Here
are just a couple of the initial findings from this lengthy report that pertain
specifically to BP:

the days leading up to April 20, BP made a series of decisions that complicated
cementing operations, added incremental risk, and may have contributed to the
ultimate failure of the cement job
. These decisions included:

  • The use of only one cement barrier. BP did not
    set any additional cement or mechanical barriers in the well, even though
    various well conditions created difficulties for the production casing cement
  • The location of the production casing. BP
    decided to set production casing in a location in the well that created
    additional risk of hydrocarbon influx.
  • The decision to install a lock‐down
    sleeve. BP’s decision to include the setting of a lock‐down sleeve
    (a piece of equipment that connects and holds the production casing to the
    wellhead during production) as part of the temporary abandonment procedure at
    Macondo increased the risks associated with subsequent operations, including
    the displacement of mud, the negative test sequence and the setting of the
    surface plug.
  • The production casing cement job. BP failed to
    perform the production casing cement job in accordance with industry‐accepted

The Panel concluded that BP failed to communicate these
decisions and the increasing operational risks to Transocean. As a result, BP
and Transocean personnel onboard the Deepwater Horizon on the evening of April
20, 2010, did not fully identify and evaluate the risks inherent in the
operations that were being conducted at Macondo.

The report correctly notes that it is difficult to know what
combination of these failures precipitated the blowout. However, the
investigators do make a judgment “that increased vigilance and awareness by BP,
Transocean and Halliburton personnel at critical junctures during operations at
the Macondo well would have reduced the likelihood of the blowout occurring.”

I’ll continue to mine through the report and hope to provide
some analysis. For those interested in learning more about specific BP
procedures and policies, the report details them at length beginning on page
175. For those interested in the team’s recommendations, those begin on page