Last updated: June 22, 2011 8:51 pm

Transocean blames BP for Gulf spill

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eepwater Horizon oil rig burns in the Gulf of Mexico

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns last year in the Gulf of Mexico after it exploded

Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig at the centre of last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill, has blamed BP, as operator of the well, for decisions that it said ultimately led to the fatal disaster.

The conclusions, reached after an internal investigation into the incident, found that a succession of decisions on well design, construction and plans for the Macondo well – many of which were taken by BP in the two weeks leading up to the accident on April 20 – had compromised the
integrity of the well and compounded the likelihood of its failure.

The decisions, claimed Transocean, were “driven by BP’s knowledge that the geological window for safe drilling was becoming increasingly narrow”. The company’s conclusions mark the latest salvo in the legal battle with BP over who was responsible for the accident which killed 11 workers and led to the biggest ever accidental offshore oil spill. BP, said the report, failed to properly assess, manage and communicate risk to its contractors.

Transocean alleges that in the two weeks preceding the accident BP changed its plans for the well five times and that the final procedure ultimately implemented never received the required regulatory approval. It also takes issue with BP’s design of the well and the cement programme which was handled by Halliburton. “The resulting cement programme was of minimal quantity, left little margin for error, and was not tested adequately before or after the cementing operation,” Transocean said.

Transocean also said its blow-out preventer, a device designed as a last resort to close off a well, was properly maintained, but the extreme pressure from the well forced the drill pipe to bend, preventing the shears from cutting the pipe.

The findings contrast with some of the broader conclusions found in two earlier US government reports that put some of the blame on the rig owner.

An investigation by the US Coast Guard released in April criticised Transocean and found that the halting of the spill was complicated by “numerous system deficiencies, and acts and omissions” by the company and its crew on the rig. Transocean disputed the findings at the time. In January, a report by the US Presidential Commission found that the accident was the result of “multiple causes, multiple companies”.

BP said on Wednesday it was “reviewing” the report. Ed Markey, the Democratic Congressman, called the report “the newest salvo in the continuing circular finger-pointing contest”.

The report, he added, “says little to shed new light on the details of the disaster, but the problems identified by the spill commission continue to cry out for Congressional action to pass comprehensive safety standards for deepwater offshore drilling”.

The publication comes a day after BP announced a settlement with another contractor, Weatherford International.

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