Oil spill commission: Management failures led to disaster

The lethal well blowout and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year was caused by a “failure of management” and could happen again without significant reform of the federal government and the offshore drilling industry, according to the presidential commission investigating the disaster.

The seven-member panel concluded that the oil spill almost certainly could have been prevented with better decision-making and risk assessment by the three companies involved in drilling and sealing BP’s Macondo well.

In its final report on the disaster, the commission blames a series of “missteps and oversights” on BP, the well owner; Halliburton, the cement contractor; and Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig.

But the commission cautions that the accident is evidence of “systemic failures” in the oil industry and the government agency that polices offshore drilling.

“The blowout was not the product of a series of aberrational decisions made by rogue industry or government officials that could not have been anticipated or expected to occur again,” the commission concluded. “Rather, the root causes are systemic and, absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, might well recur.”

Tasked by President Barack Obama with pinpointing the root causes of the spill and recommending changes to prevent it from recurring, the commission is set to release its final report next Tuesday. An excerpt from that document was released late today.

William Reilly, the commission co-chairman, said the investigation proves that the spill wasn’t the result of blunders by BP, but rather, evidence of “a more pervasive problem of a complacent industry.”

“Given the documented failings of both Transocean and Halliburton, both of which serve the offshore industry in virtually every ocean, I reluctantly conclude we have a system-wide problem,” Reilly said in a statement.

That runs counter to a common narrative from industry leaders, who have described the accident as an aberration — not an endemic problem.

The commission’s findings also could aid BP by bolstering claims that no single company is solely responsible for the well blowout that killed 11 workers and dumped an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
Commission Co-Chairman Bob Graham, said the report affirms that the tragedy was avoidable.

“This disaster likely would not have happened had the companies involved been guided by an unrelenting commitment to safety first,” Graham said. “And it likely would not have happened if the responsible governmental regulators had the capacity and will to demand world class safety standards.”

Obama administration officials said the report pinpoints problems that are already being addressed at the Interior Department and the new Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.

“In response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration has launched the most comprehensive reforms in U.S. history to ensure the safe development of offshore oil and gas regulation,” said Kendra Barkoff, an Interior Department spokeswoman.

“The agency has taken unprecedented steps and will continue to make the changes necessary to restore the American people’s confidence in the safety and environmental soundness of oil and gas drilling and production on the outer continental shelf while balancing our nation’s important energy needs.”

Transocean defended its work on the Macondo well.

“Consistent with industry standards, the procedures being conducted in the final hours were crafted and directed by BP engineers and approved in advance by federal regulators,” said Transocean spokesman Brian Kennedy.

“Based on the limited information made available to them, the Transocean crew took appropriate actions to gain control of the well. They were well-trained and considered to be among the best in the business.”

Photo:Photo: Hans Gerwitz/Flickr

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23 Comments

  1. bob

    Are you sure of this? it could have been the federal government oversight by the department of energy or the EPA or some other government agency that has responsibility for the oversight of drilling. I mean the federal government has the ability i guess to shut anything down they see that is unsafe right? They keep our food safe and our energy cheap (cough cough). They do not allow plastic toys in Mcdonalds happy meals. I mean they are looking put for us citizens big time. Such a thoughtful bunch.

    #1
  2. DemocratTreehugger

    The only entity that could drill our oil wells safely and efficiently is the Federal Government! This panel conclusion all but says that!

    Maybe I wouldn’t hate fossil fuels so much if the government was in charge of everything. Hugs to all.

    #2
  3. Helen

    Management at BP failed, not management in the entire oil industry. Their reputation is the worst of all the majors in many areas. Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water here!

    #3
  4. Art Vandeley

    “The presidential commission said it could happen again without significant reform of the government and the offshore drilling industry”. ******* In government speak this translates to; We are now in control and offshore drilling off the United States coast is dead. Signed: The Obama Administration. Meanwhile somewhere in Venezuela Hugo Chaves is grinning ear to ear.

    #4
  5. Woodlandsdad

    I stood in a very long line at the post office today waiting to mail a package. As I stood there looking at the long line of potential customers being serviced by a single clerk I thought to myself that the federal government cannot run anything efficiently. Any business that ran itself this way would be out of business without government subsidies. Now the government thinks that they have the answer to future oil spill prevention. Please, give me a break!

    #5
  6. Trail Trash

    Stern statements, but you have to respect what men like Reilly and Graham say. I will be interested in reading the full report.

    #6
  7. Gabacho

    The disaster was in the White House. Only a whitety hating, oil hating, red state hating Pan Leninist-would let that oil flow for over 100 days.

    This “president” is pitiful !

    Impeach the marxist !

    #7
  8. Zilch

    The main thing B.P. learned is to kill the spill cams before the press finds them.

    #8
  9. FedUpInTX

    “….is evidence of “systemic failures” in the oil industry and the government agency that polices offshore drilling….”

    I just have one question:

    Time and time again panels “conclude” that they are Federally ill prepared for resource, catastrophe response. It happens here…in AK during the Alyeska debacle, FEMA during Katrina and also in domestic crisis situations. It leaves the question to be…WHAT THE HE*L ARE THEY GOOD AT? ..aside from taking lobby dollars…of course..

    #9
  10. Otter Jones

    We don’t need anymore of your control comrades! All other countries are drilling in the Gulf without your permission, Mr. Hussein.

    #10
  11. this is the result of the bush admin deregulation , just like the state of our econcomy is a result of Deregulation.

    #11
  12. Contrary Dave

    While it may be endemic to BP, it is not endemic to the industry. Stuff does happen, but most companies have people working in dangerous circumstances who have the sense to realize that the life you save may be your own.

    More government regulations will do nothing. That is what government always does when they fail to enforce existing regulations. They create more regulations because that is cheaper than beefing up enforcement. And they make it more difficult to hire anyone who has a clue.

    Clear concise regulations, no preapproval just like you don’t need preapproval for not murdering someone, but violate the regs and the punishment is severe – as in the dollar equivalent of the death penalty.

    #12
  13. creech

    All of you who predicted that Obama would use this as an excuse to ‘federalize’ the industry, stand and take a bow. Another industry lost to socialism. See paragraph four of the article (“But the commission cautions..”). Paragraph three was where the commission should have finished (“In its final report…”).

    #13
  14. pdh42

    If one reads between the lines this will keep ALL drilling in the GOM shut down just as Nobama wants it to be…. Is everyone ready for $5.00 per gallon of gas????

    #14
  15. Tex

    There is plenty of blame to go around.

    Brian Kennedy, however, must either be brain dead, be a sleep at the wheel or be positioning himself for a number of court cases if he believes the statement: “Transocean crew took appropriate actions to gain control of the well. They were well-trained and considered to be among the best in the business”.

    The Trans Ocean crew failed to close the shear rams and failed to initiate the emergency disconnect sequence before the explosion that severed communications to the BOP stack. There were significant flow and warning signs and ample time to take actions before the explosion. The dead-man function of the BOP failed because of substandard and inadequate BOP maintenance. The BOP stack was incorrectly plumbed for ROV intervention.

    I do certainly not consider the above to be “the best in the business”.

    #15
  16. Dick Holden

    It’s a known fact that they can produce cars that run on water, but there’s a mass conspiracy to keep them off the market that involves big oil, government, the Iluminati, Alex Jones, and Ronald McDonald.

    #16
  17. This report is like directing the Nazi regime to take an ethics class. Not since Monty Python’s “compfy chair” and “soft cushions” for the Spanish Inquisition has feigned punishment been so blunted. Yeah, I’m sure they’ll get right on fixing these and other problems.
    Not one criminal charge has been filed. Chew on that.

    #17
  18. Joe

    How many years of oil sciences and experience does this panel of 7 have? How many have even been to an oil patch, much less deep water. And of those 7 how many know how to change the oil in their cars?

    #18
  19. FloLake

    The blame game rolls along in earnest.

    #19
  20. The report is nonsense. Mistakes were made at the rig, management has to be able to make the assumption that the crews on a multi-million dollar semi-sub rig will “notice” a 1000-bbl gain. Unfortunately everything needed was in place, just not properly used. Almost all drilling crews will believe a well is safe after running pipe and cementing. One can be sure crews are now paying closer attention to a “safe” well.

    #20
  21. txloanguy

    Lessons learned:

    1. The government is slow and inefficient
    2. BP made a big mistake and is paying for it.
    3. The environmentalists will falsify and lie about anything
    4. More regulation is not necessarily the answer.
    5. It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature

    #21
  22. Catclaw

    “And it likely would not have happened if the responsible governmental regulators had the capacity and will to demand world class safety standards.”

    “Big Earl” could adopt Norway’s regulation of drilling, but they won’t because they would cost more than they want to spend.

    #22
  23. Adler

    This report is not worth the paper on which it’s written. They had the details to find the root cause from day 1, but they’d rather play this stupid game of blaming the entire industry.

    And yes, there is a root cause, and it was under the direct responsibility of only 1 of the companies involved.

    #23