Report blasts Transocean over Deepwater Horizon disaster*updated*


By Brett Clanton and Tom Fowler

Houston Chronicle

Federal investigators on Friday blasted Transocean, owner of the Deepwater Horizon, for poor maintenance of the doomed drilling rig, inadequate training of workers and safety lapses that may have contributed to the deadly Gulf disaster a year ago.

The company’s “numerous systems deficiencies” and “omissions” ranged from bypassing gas alarms and automatic shutdown systems that could have prevented an explosion to failing to conduct enough emergency drills.

“These deficiencies indicate that Transocean’s failure to have an effective safety management system and instill a culture that emphasizes and ensures safety contributed to this disaster,” a joint Coast Guard-Interior Department panel said in a preliminary investigation report on the Deepwater Horizon accident.

Friday’s report focused narrowly on the explosions and fire on the Deepwater Horizon, worker evacuations, the flooding and sinking of the rig and the safety systems of the rig and Transocean.

Transocean said in a statement that it “strongly disagrees” with the findings, noting the Deepwater Horizon was compliant with U.S. and international standards at the time of the accident. “We look forward to setting the record straight,” the company said.

The report also singled out the Republic of the Marshall Islands for “ineffective” oversight of the Deepwater Horizon — which sailed under the country’s flag — because it delegated rig inspection activities to third parties.

The nation responded that the study was based on “conjecture and speculation, which should have no place in a responsible casualty investigation report.”

The 348-page document, which the panel calls Volume One, will be part of a larger report that the joint panel plans to issue by July.

Volume One, which was by the Coast Guard, does not attempt to explain the root causes of the actual blowout of BP’s Macondo well that set the disaster in motion. That will come in a subsequent report by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.

BP said it was still reviewing the report and had no comment.

The interim report arrived two days after the first anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon accident that killed 11 workers and launched the worst oil spill in U.S. history. And it appeared to shift more blame to Transocean, after BP has taken the brunt of criticism for it.

Indeed, the report is often sharply critical of Transocean. At one point, it says the company’s safety culture could be described as “running it until it breaks,” “only if it’s convenient” and “going through the motions.”

Specifically, it faults the rig owner for such items as poor maintenance of electrical equipment that may have ignited the explosion; not setting up a fire and gas detection system to automatically shut down operating generators when gas was detected in critical areas; and not providing enough training to workers in emergency procedures.

Added up, the problems rendered the Deepwater Horizon “ineffective in preventing this casualty,” the report said.

But it said the Marshall Islands should have kept better tabs on third-party inspection services — Det Norske Veritas and the American Bureau of Shipping — it hired to monitor the safety of offshore rigs. The U.S. Coast Guard also should strengthen oversight of foreign-flagged vessels, the report said.

The joint Coast Guard-Interior investigation was launched days after the Deepwater Horizon blast and was the first to bring many of the dramatic details of the incident to light.

In seven rounds of public hearings in New Orleans, the board interviewed surviving rig workers; shore-based BP engineers who made crucial decisions about the Macondo well; managers and rig-based specialists with Transocean and other contractors; federal offshore rig inspectors; and Coast Guard firefighters who responded to the accident.

The joint board had the power to administer oaths, summon witnesses and require relevant documents and any other evidence to be submitted. In that way, it had access into the disaster that other investigations lacked.

Yet because other investigation reports have come out sooner, they have had an edge in shaping the debate early about the causes of the accident.

In September, BP released an internal investigation report that concluded a “complex and interlinked series” of equipment failures led to the deadly Gulf accident. It acknowledged only limited culpability and singled out mistakes by contractors — in particular, a faulty well cementing job by Halliburton.

In January, the presidential oil spill commission’s report blamed the accident on human error, engineering mistakes and “management failures” by BP, Transocean and Halliburton. It also cited weak government oversight of offshore drilling industry.

Several other investigations continue, including one by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board and a criminal probe by the Justice Department.

On Wednesday, BP filed federal lawsuits in New Orleans against Halliburton, Transocean and Cameron — which made the blowout preventer that failed to stop a surge of oil and gas from the well. The suits seek billions of dollars in damages.

Since the earliest days of the accident, BP has said the contractors on the Macondo well should share in the blame for the disaster, but the lawsuits did not come until the actual statutory deadline for making claims.

Read the preliminary report below.

USCG Prelime DWH Report April 22

Brett Clanton

14 Responses

  1. Rob Almeida says:

    The USCG report has major holes in it. Please see gCaptain’s review of this report at

  2. jukester says:

    Energy Moron, its actually quite a bit worse than just worrying about environmental damage from mud overboard. The flow was diverted into a system which was grossly inadequate to handle the flow rates involved (mud separators were overwhelmed). Even so, the explosion would not have happened, certainly not as quickly, if the gas detection equipment had not been bypassed by Transocean staff. That was their control system, not BP’s. The standard operating practice WAS to divert the mud overboard. The question is – why wasn’t this done? This is covered pretty well as you noted, in the BP ‘Bly’ report last Fall.

  3. Trail Trash says:

    Well said Energy Moron.

  4. Energy Moron says:

    A slightly different perspective perhaps would be that the miraculous number of survivors of the incident is actually a tribute to the safety awareness of at least the crew and of the general design of the ship.

    Sure, things always can be done better with 20/20 hindsight and the recommendations should be followed. The one thing that has always struck me about what happened on the ship is that a critical error was made when during the full-fledged blowout the mud was not diverted overboard. I am familar with the sites of some tragic indutrial accidents and do know of case where 4 men died because they fell into a berm meant to protect the environment from an oil spill from a hot pipe… they opened the pipe while flow and fried in the oil.

    In other words, there might be 11 more folks with us today if somebody had said the environmental pollution of overboarding the mud is justified. I do know 4 would have had a chance had they not drowned in hot oil.

    BPs Bly report has a pretty good technical section describing the precise sequence of what those poor drillers had coming at them. That ain’t the drillers job to keep watch over that. And once again were they inhibited from overboarding owing to talks about the environment…. you know, one thing about this whole justice department thing is why is the Obama administration talking about environmental crimes when 11 died? Are fish more important than folks?

    That only 11 died–11 too many, to be sure–is a miracle.

  5. VelvetRob says:

    BP, Transocean, Haliburton, and Cameron are 100% at fault for the Deepwater Horizon tragedy. It is illogical to blame Obama or his administration for what happened. Don’t be conspiracy theory guy.

  6. Jakz says:

    “The joint Coast Guard-Interior investigation was launched days after the Deepwater Horizon blast, and was the first to bring many of the dramatic details of the incident to light.”
    I wonder if any government agency will look into the dysfunctionality of the Obama administration’s handling of the oil spill. Why did Obama et al drag their feet and not respond as the federal Oil Pollution Act required??? Why did Obama not allow foreign vessels to help with the spill? Was he in collusion with union goons over this ommission? This double standard of business being held accountable but never government must end.

  7. rex hughey says:

    some questions.
    did bp order the bond log canceled.
    whose orders were the floor mgrs. mud loggers, chemical people,cementers,
    these are the people doing their job maintaning the indicators of the well
    my experience ,bp would be the one giving orders to all the above mentioned people. these are the people that lost their lives, trying to
    carry out these orders.
    bp ordered them to change out the mud system with water. question. did they pump and condition mud before this operation was started. are were they trying to get this expensive rig off the payroll as quickly as possible. these questions can be ansewered because the ons giving the orders are still alive.

    • Tom Fowler says:

      This report is very limited in scope, just looking at the fire, explosion and rescue from the rig, not the real root causes of the blowout. That will likely be in a later report from the USCG/BOEMRE. Really this report is more like a USCG-only report, with them looking at the ocean-going-vessel aspects of it. The next report is due in July.

  8. Logan says:

    So is this meant to usher out BP’s involvement? Are they trying to pin the blame on Transocean here? I really, really hate the way this whole thing has been handled, it truly is a travesty that every single bigwig at BP is not in jail – for life. Sure, add TransOcean to the mix, but send the true evil b@@@ at BP to jail first.

  9. Jose says:

    This report is nothing but a bunch of bunk! Obama and his cronies want to start regulating oil services companies so they had the Coast Guard trump up this bogus report. I am sick and tired of this rogue administration and their ward politics.

  10. J T says:

    Everyone in the business knows BP was at fault. The company man can veto any recomendation and make it stick.

  11. James says:

    They need to PAY!

  12. Jerry says:

    “We don’t need no stinkin’ regulation.” The Oil Industry to congress at every opportunity.