Today, The Joint Investigation Team ("JIT"), made up of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement ("BOEMRE") (formerly "MMS") and the United States Coast Guard issued its final report on it's investigation of BP's Macondo Well Blowout and subsequent oil spill that occurred on April 20, 2010. The report came in 2 volumes, the first issued last April, and the second including causes and conclusions, issued today. The very detailed report listed a number of contributing factors to the causes of the accident, most notably saying:
The loss of life at the Macondo site on April 20, 2010, and the subsequent pollution of the Gulf of Mexico through the summer of 2010 were the result of poor risk management, last‐minute changes to plans, failure to observe and respond to critical indicators, inadequate well control response, and insufficient emergency bridge response training by companies and individuals responsible for drilling at the Macondo well and for the operation of the Deepwater Horizon.
Listed among the causes was failure to detect the gas kick in the first place, risky casing design, multiple simultaneous operations, management changes, poor communication, failure to enforce safety rules and regulations, and complete failure of the blowout preventer systems once the well had blown out. Notably, the report determined that the same on-duty drilling crew that failed to recognize this kick that turned into the blowout had failed to recognize a previous kick on this very same well.
I found the JIT's report on the blowout's flow path to be the most interesting and revealing information to date about the condition of the well after it had been killed and was being permanently plugged during the Fall of 2010. They studied 3 possible flow path scenarios:
Related to these factors, Halliburton filed suit against last week BP citing the company's withholding of critical information that could have contributed to the blowout. Halliburton cited the presence of another hydrocarbon bearing zone above the primary productive zone that could have contributed to the blowout that was not disclosed by BP prior to the cement job. Since the JIT has now ruled out a backside blowout, this newly disclosed zone probably didn't contribute to the disaster, but clearly, BP should have disclosed that zone to Halliburton and requested a cement design that covered it according to best practices and offshore drilling rules.
Once more, responsibility for the Macondo well disaster that killed 11 men and put 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico falls squarely on the shoulders of BP, the operator of record for the well. The big issue here, though, is how we are taking this very detailed information and translating it into badly needed improvements in offshore drilling technology and oversight. In the report the JIT said about regulations:
Although the Panel found no evidence that MMS regulations in effect on April 20, 2010 were a cause of the blowout, the Panel concluded that stronger and more comprehensive federal regulations might have reduced the likelihood of the Macondo blowout. In particular, the Panel found that MMS regulations in place at the time of the blowout could be enhanced in a number of areas, including: cementing procedures and testing; BOP configuration and testing; well integrity testing; and other drilling operations. In addition, the Panel found that there were a number of ways in which the MMS drilling inspections program could be improved.
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