Cost cutting blamed for Gulf of Mexico spill

An investigation by the United States government into the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has concluded cost cutting by several companies contributed to the disaster.

BP, Halliburton, and Transocean are all cited by the panel, which argues those involved took decisions which “increased the risk of the Macondo blow-out”.

The American government is also blamed for inadequate oversight and regulation.

Such failures were “systemic” and are likely to recur without industry and government reform, the panel added.

The BP operated Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20th last year, killing 11 workers.

Some 4.9 million barrels of oil were subsequently released into the ocean in what became the worst environmental disaster in the history of the United States.

Tourism along the Gulf Coast of the United States was hard hit, with BP forced to pay out millions in compensation.

United States officials have confirmed they will pursue legal action against BP, as well as eight other companies.

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Gulf of Mexico

A statement from BP argued the findings of the US oil spill commission supported the conclusion of its own internal investigation.

BP’s investigation into the disaster – branded by Barack Obama as an “environmental 9/11” – concluded “no single factor” was responsible for the disaster and that “a sequence of failures involving a number of different parties” were to blame.

The oil giant has committed to working with regulators “to ensure the lessons learned from Macondo lead to improvements in operations and contractor services in deepwater drilling”.

Immediate Failure

The report outlines a number of specific failures at Deepwater Horizon which caused the explosion.

These include the flawed design of the cement used to seal the bottom of the well and the failure of workers to recognise the first signs of the impending blow-out.

A test of the concrete seal which identified problems but was “incorrectly judged a success” may also have contributed according to the oil spill commission.

Moving Forward

However, the report singles out BP’s “fundamental mistake” to properly oversee the sealing of the well with cement.

“Based on evidence currently available, there is nothing to suggest that BP’s engineering team conducted a formal, disciplined analysis of the combined impact of these risk factors on the prospects for a successful cement job,” the report explained.

Actions of this kind are likely to see mistakes repeated.

“Rather, the root causes are systemic and, absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, might well recur,” concluded the report.