The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE, formerly the Minerals Management Service (MMS)) recently released what has been called the most comprehensive findings to date on the causes of the Deepwater Horizon incident of April 20, 2010. The incident killed 11 workers and resulted in the worst oil spill in US history, which lasted 87 days and released almost 5 million barrels of oil.
The report placed shared blame on BP, Transocean, and Halliburton, the three main companies who were operating the Macondo Oil Prospect. The main cause of the blowout was concluded to be the “failure of the cement barrier” which “allowed hydrocarbons to flow up the wellbore, through the riser and onto the rig, resulting in the blowout.”
A number of problems during drilling led rig personnel to refer to Macondo as the “well from hell.” These included “kicks” (sudden changes in pressure), “stuck pipe,” and “equipment leaks.” Scheduling conflicts and cost overruns resulted in a situation where “as of April 20, BP’s Macondo operations were more than $58 million over budget.”
The report concludes that Halliburton “was responsible for conducting the cement job” but that BP “made a series of decisions that complicated cementing operations” and “added incremental risk.” Although BP, as “designated operator,” was “ultimately responsible” for safety at the Macondo operation, “Transocean personnel onboard the Deepwater Horizon missed the opportunity to remedy the cement problems when they misinterpreted anomalies encountered during a critical test of cement barriers.” The report states that the incident might not have occurred had the failure of the cement been detected, but by bypassing a critical flow meter and also performing multiple simultaneous preparations to move the rig, the possibility of early kick detection was limited.
The report lists several federal regulations violated by BP, and in some instances its contractors, but also recognises that stronger regulations, for instance in cementing procedures, could have been put in place by the MMS and might have reduced the likelihood of the Macondo blowout.
The report is dedicated to the 11 lives lost that day.