From Fuel Fix Blog
WASHINGTON — Gaps in programs for managing safety at offshore wells BP and Transocean drilled contributed to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, according to federal investigators probing the incident.
The Chemical Safety Board says lapses included a failure to assess comprehensively the potential risks while drilling the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico.
Safety management problems
“BP and Transocean had multiple safety management system deficiencies that contributed to the Macondo incident,” the board reports.
The board also says federal regulators should step up monitoring of incidents offshore that could be early warning signs of potentially catastrophic accidents.
The safety board’s investigation is the last major probe of what went wrong when oil and explosive gas surged out of BP’s Macondo well on April 20, 2010, and ignited aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, killing 11 workers, seriously injuring 17 others and unleashing an 87-day-long oil spill.
Safety and risk were not assessed during Macondo drilling
The independent federal agency, which has probed more than 50 industrial accidents, does not issue citations but makes safety recommendations to plants, labor groups and regulators.
Its report says BP didn’t comprehensively assess the potential accidents and risks while drilling the Macondo well in a high-pressure reservoir 41 miles off the Louisiana coast and a mile under the Gulf surface.
Lack of focus on accident metrics
“Industry benchmarking by BP focused on production performance without significant focus on major accident metrics,” according to the board’s report.
BP collected data that could presage a catastrophe — information called safety “indicators” — but those measurements and a separate hazard assessment typically focused on BP’s assets, not drilling rigs such as the Deepwater Horizon that it leased from others.
Looming safety failures
And when BP did performance reviews of leased rigs, the company too often focused on equipment failures, dropped objects, downtime and other indicators of operational fitness — not necessarily indicators of looming safety problems, the board will report at the second day of a two-day Houston hearing.
When BP audited Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon rig in 2007, three years before the disaster, most of its recommendations involved personal safety issues, such as scaffolding, equipment calibration and proper labeling of tanks, the Chemical Safety Board says.
Personal safety took priority over major accident risks
Similarly, according to the report, Transocean’s own safety assessment of the Deepwater Horizon in 2004 emphasized personal safety issues, without any recommendations addressing major accident risks, such as gas escaping the wells it drilled.
Safety board investigators note that BP since has developed “a more rigorous process safety indicators program” that can warn of potential trouble.
And after its own internal probe of the oil spill, the company recommended requiring hazard reviews of BP-owned and contracted rigs.
BP, Transocean improving safety
A BP spokesman said the company “has taken concrete steps to further enhance safety and risk management throughout its global operations.”
Transocean issued a statement saying it will review the report and is “committed to continuous improvement in both personal and process safety performance.”