BP accused of concealing evidence

AT BEST, BP’s investigation into the Deepwater Horizon rig disaster on April 20 2010 only told part of the story. At worst it was an attempt to cover up misdeeds by shore-side executives. At least, that is what the US Department of Justice is alleging.
BP accused of concealing evidence BP accused of concealing evidence BP accused of concealing evidence BP accused of concealing evidence BP accused of concealing evidence

The memo makes interesting reading, not least because of the very strong language it contains.

It refers to a BP report called the Bly Report setting out its analysis of why the tragedy occurred.

That report, the DoJ contends, focused on technical and mechanical rig-based causes of the blowout, fire, explosions and their aftermath while overlooking its own executives' roles in the tragedy.

BP has reportedly released a statement disputing the criticism of its executives.

Energy News has been unable to obtain a copy of the BP statement, however, a Reuters report quotes the company as saying: "BP believes it was not grossly negligent and looks forward to presenting evidence on this issue at trial in January".

It appears likely the DoJ and BP will square off in the US courts next January unless they reach a settlement in the meantime.

The DoJ memo says: "To be sure the rig-based functional causes of the BP/Deepwater Horizon tragedy can be traced to the failure of the cementing job, to the recklessly performed and grossly negligent ‘negative pressure test' undertaken by BP and Transocean, to the failure of the BOP [blow out preventer] to close in the well, and to the host of other failures set out in the ‘swiss cheese' causation model in BP's report.

"But what is most striking about the so-called Bly Report is the utter lack of any semblance of investigation of the systemic management causes deeply implicating the corporate managers and leadership who caused and allowed the rig-based mechanical causes to fester and ultimately explode in a fireball of death, personal injury, economic catastrophe and environmental devastation."

The memo refers several times to an email exchange between BP wells team leader for the Macondo well John Guide and his boss and fellow Houston-based executive David Sims.

In his email Guide says the well site leaders had "finally come to their wits end" and that the "operation is not going to succeed if we continue in this manner".

Sims response was that he had dance practise in a few minutes and that they should talk later that day.

"We're dancing to the Village People," he says in his response to Guide.

That email exchange occurred three days before the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded.

"How could BP's report, which consisted of 190 pages and another 569 pages of appendices not mention, even in a single footnote, the Guide-Sims emails that sounded such a clarion cry of impending disaster?" the memo asks.

It goes on to say: "Ignoring the remarkable Guide-Sims emails would be bad enough.

"But it is only when we understand the sheer magnitude of the evidence that BP sought to hide by its rigidly circumscribed investigation that we understand BP's motivation for purposely ignoring the lessons of the Texas City tragedy, the Baker Report [by former US Secretary of State James Baker into the Texas City tragedy] and the civil and criminal cases and probation stemming from that disaster - and others.

"Very simply, the Guide-Sims exchanges were only the merest tip of the culture of corporate recklessness that pervaded management and operation of the Macondo well."

The Texas City tragedy refers to a 2005 explosion at BP's Texas City refinery, which killed 15.

Another incident the memo points to is an exchange between BP Houston engineer Brett Cocales and Guide.

On learning on April 15 that Halliburton's cement modelling showed the critical (and ultimately failed) cement job would be subject to "severe channelling" unless 21 centralisers were used Cocales had 15 centralisers sent to the rig to join the six already aboard, the memo says.

It says the next day Guide ordered the extra centralisers not be used.

"In an email that is striking not only for its cavalier nature but also its unfortunate lack of prophecy, Cocales succumbed to Guide's demand and emailed another BP Houston engineer: ‘But who cares, it's done, end of story. Will probably be fine …'," the memo says.

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