05/12/2010 10:50 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

BP Exec Admits to Senate Committee What We All Knew Anyway

Much of the testimony before the Senate Committees yesterday consisted of what we expected: finger pointing, delay, evasive answers, but not much light, with the exception of this one statement by Lamar McKay, BP America's president:

We don't know yet precisely what happened on the night of April 20th, but what we do know is that there were anomalous pressure test readings prior to the explosion. These could have raised concerns about well control prior to the operation to replace mud with sea water in the well in preparation for setting of the cement plug.

"Anomalous pressure test readings." Translation:

There was pressure on the BOP prior to opening it after the pressure test, but since there was no BP supervisor on the rig floor during this critical operation, the fact that there was pressure on the BOP was missed by the rig crew prior to opening it.

This was the most enlightening moment in the hours of testimony and sparring with the Senators during the two hearings. The other hours were consumed by "we're still gathering data," "we don't know yet," and the ever popular, "it was the other guy's responsibility." They say they don't have the data yet. I don't believe that for a minute. Data from offshore rigs are streamed continuously by satellite link directly into the offices of the lease holder, the rig operator, and the service companies working on the rig. Industry executives can sit in their offices in Houston and watch live on their computer screens every bit of information from the rig, including mud weight, pressures, flows, revolutions, weight on the bit, and dozens of other measures including exact position of the rig over the wellhead. For each of these companies to claim they haven't gathered the data is flatly false. The data is there; I'm sure that it is being held back as the companies jockey for legal defense positions. They darn sure weren't going to reveal it during a witch hunt conducted in a Washington, DC hearing room.

I am pretty convinced now that my initial conclusion about the cause of this accident was correct. BP and Transocean let their guards down. The well was cemented, the bottom plug had been set, and the casing hanger packoff set and tested. They assumed the well was safe. The senior drilling managers and supervisors were off of the floor at a party with BP bigwigs. The rig crew was left on its own to finish up the last details, rushing to get the rig moved off the well. Everyone turned their backs on this beast, thinking it was safely caged. Somebody just forgot to make sure the door was locked.

Why do I think that they let down their guards? Look at the list of those tragically killed in this blowout: 9 Transocean workers, 2 MI Swaco mud engineers. If there was a BP supervisor on the floor, the name of that person would also be on this list. It's not.

Now you know the real cause of this disaster.