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Planet Ark World Environment News BP Made Risky Decisions Before Spill: Panel Document

Date: 25-Nov-10
Country: USA
Author: Ayesha Rascoe

BP made a series of decisions while drilling its doomed Macondo well that saved time but added risks prior to its massive Gulf spill, according to a White House oil spill commission document leaked by a media outlet.

The chart compiled by the commission's investigative team outlines 11 unnecessary actions taken by BP and its partners in the lead-up to the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

The document has not been officially released by the commission, but was made public in an online article by energy trade publication Greenwire on Tuesday.

BP workers on shore made most of these risky decisions, such as not waiting for more centralizers (devices used to ensure the cement casing is applied evenly around the well) and not installing additional plugs and barriers, the commission document said.

The document was left out of a commission presentation on the causes of the oil spill earlier this month because the commissioners had not had time to review it, a panel spokesman said.

The chart stands in contrast to some comments made by the commission's investigators during that hearing that BP workers did not cut corners on safety to save money.

After push back over the comments, commissioners and the investigators attempted to clarify that the findings did not mean that the companies involved with the accident never made decisions based on financial motives.

The investigators said their initial findings only indicated that workers on the rig did not consciously risk their own safety due to concerns about money.

Commission spokesman Dave Cohen said that, while the chart has not been released, all of the points in the document were made during the public hearings.

"The commission continues to stand behind those findings," Cohen said.

He said the commission is waiting for more information, and the document will be made public in the future.

Charged with guiding the future of offshore drilling, the seven-member presidential commission is scheduled to release its final recommendations by January.

In addition to BP, the document said BP's contractors Halliburton and Transocean also made some time-saving decisions that increased safety risks.

Halliburton, which did the cementing for the BP well, is charged with not re-evaluating its cement slurry design and not waiting for results of some stability tests on its foam cement formula.

The document also blames Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig, for undertaking simultaneous operations during the abandonment of the well.

Transocean maintains it did not simultaneously carry out multiple operations at the end of the well and instead just followed temporary abandonment procedures laid out by BP.

"Transocean does not -- and did not in connection with the Deepwater Horizon -- operate in preference of time or cost over safety," a company spokesman said in a statement.

BP declined to comment on the commission document when contacted by Reuters.

A Halliburton spokeswoman said the company was "unable to comment as we have not reviewed the document."

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