BP Accident Report Out…Points Finger at Everyone Else

The long awaited internal report on the blowout of Mississippi Canyon Block 252 well from BP was released this week, a 200 plus page treatise with page after page of data about the blowout and its causes.  Predictably, the report did its best to deflect liability away from BP by pointing the finger at virtually everyone else.  Also predictably, the press mostly gave them a pass, claiming that BP also blamed themselves for the accident.  Well, not really.  The report identified 8 major conclusions about factors that caused the accident.  Of the eight, the company only took partial responsibility for 2.  Here they are, along with BP’s conclusions:

  • The annulus did not isolate the hydrocarbons -
    Halliburton’s fault, though BP should have been more aware.
  • The shoe track (bottom section of casing) did
    not isolate hydrocarbons – Halliburton’s and Weatherford’s fault.
  • The negative pressure test was accepted although
    well integrity had not been established – Primarily Transocean’s toolpusher’s
    ; BP’s fault that company man accepted toolpusher’s explanation.  
  • Influx of hydrocarbons was not recognized until
    hydrocarbons were in the riser – Transocean’s fault.
  • Well control response actions failed to regain
    control of the well – Transocean’s fault
  • Diversion to the mud gas separator (rather than
    directly overboard) resulted in gas venting onto the rig – Transocean’s fault.
  •  The fire and gas system did not prevent
    hydrocarbon ignition – Transocean’s fault
  • The BOP emergency mode did not seal the well -
    Transocean’s fault

Not on the list were BP’s casing design, BP’s decision not to run all the centralizers, BP’s orders not to circulate bottoms up before the cement job, and BP’s decision to displace the riser with seawater prior to running the top cement plug or setting the casinghanger lockdown sleeve. The report, in fact, staunchly defended the casing design calling it standard industry practice that was actually better than a liner, even though other operators, including Shell, disagree .  The report concluded that the original influx of gas into the well came up through the production casing, which is the least likely path that required 4 simultaneous failures to occur.  The obvious path, up the outside of the production casing to the casing hanger that we’ve talked about before, was dismissed, though they left the door open to that possibility, buried in the back of the report.  As part of their defense of this conclusion was the live feed of pressure readings from the rig up until the explosions; they also cited the pressure behaviors of the well during the static kill, but left that data out of the appendices.  They also discounted the lack of centralizers as a cause of the blowout, which I agree with, but for a different reason.  They say it’s because the gas from the formation actually went DOWN the annulus, into the production casing, through 134 feet of premium cement in the shoe track, through TWO float failed valves, and into the casing.  I don’t believe the centralizers were a factor because I question their effectiveness, especially in small gauge holes, such as this one.

Two new pieces of information were interesting, though.  According to BP’s conclusions about pressure data, one of the annular preventer worked, at least partially.  They don’t explain, though how it ultimately failed.  Also, when gas first hit the surface, the crew ran it through the mud gas separator, which was overwhelmed, enveloping the rig in gas.  Had they simply diverted it overboard, it could have given them more time to get the well under control.  As it happened, the gas flooded the engine rooms with disastrous consequences.

Certainly, running nitrified cement was a factor in this well getting away from them, but that was BP’s decision.  Not running all the centralizers were BP’s decision, and Halliburton’s Opti-Cem cement report even warned BP of the likelihood of severe gas flow, which BP promptly ignored.  The key mistake here, however, was failure to recognize the influx of hydrocarbons into the well.  BP can blame Transocean and the others all it wants, but it was that mistake that lead to the disaster, and that responsibility lay on BP’s shoulders as operator. In fact, the influx came to the surface because BP prematurely ordered that seawater be loaded into the riser before the final operations were complete.

It’s more than just a coincidence that BP’s own conclusions about the causes of this disaster happen to be somebody else’s fault, and BP takes little responsibility for key errors that were made. It’s also no surprise that the factors BP points to as causes are neither provable or disprovable, because almost everything they point to as causes are still in the hole, never to be recovered.  There is plenty of blame to go around here between BP and Transocean.  The rig crew should have recognized the kick…but the BP company men should have, too.  We all know the BOP failed, and that’s on Transocean’s shoulders, but the rest?  That’s on BP as operator.

BP’s blatant (some might say cynical) buck-passing calls the validity of the entire report into question, but that’s not surprising, with the stakes so high.  Rather than getting to the truth, BP’s goal here was to spread as much fault as possible and blaming the dead guys is always easiest. The shame is that all this gamesmanship obscures the possible real causes that could help save lives as the industry goes back to work in the deepwater.

I didn’t expect that kind of transparency, though, especially based on the experiences of the last 4 months.


  1. Phil says

    Glad to see somebody, Eljefe, still on top of this disaster. The media must believe the story about all that oil just going away. Or the media just does what its told. Stay on it Bob, can’t wait to read your book!

  2. Oilacct says

    Pretty much what we would expect from a company generated report. There’s no way the lawyers would let anything implicating BP to any great extent get out the door. Let’s hope the government report is better.

  3. WindorSolarPlease says

    I have not heard any of this on the media, but then I could have missed it.
    Thank you for writing this.
    This does not surprise me. Nothing BP says or does surprise me anymore.
    However, I am still shocked at some of our officials in how they are handling this.
    This is where we live, officials need to do their job in protecting it and protect it’s people. If they don’t, it will effect them also in some way down the road.
    Thank you to the many brave people who have taken pictures, videos, who have sites, and for the professionals standing up and letting things be known. So many people have gone out of their way to inform us, including our Mr. Bob.
    People from the gulf and else where, have been speaking up, they don’t want other people getting sick from the sea food.
    As it is, many already have felt the effects of the toxins.
    Some will say, keep your mouth shut your hurting business.
    They are not the ones hurting business, it was already hurt by BP and others.

  4. tenacious says

    Anyone who’s ever set foot on the floor of a drilling rig, on land or offshore, knows the company man is lord god almighty, the final judge and jury. Nothing happens without his say. To indicate the company was some passive boob is ridiculous. BP called the shots, its primarily BP’s fault. But I will never understand how Transocean accepted drilling ahead with a BOP that wasn’t up to par. So they own a lot of it too.

  5. says

    Obama’s Gulf War –
    “No Credit For Blackmailers”
    (Is BP’s check in the mail?)
    Would you buy a used car from a BP exec?
    Those billions they promised? Do they plan to renege
    If we won’t allow them to continue to spill
    With their Transocean buddies on a Transocean rig?
    Why would they want to if Transocean’s to blame?
    Hasn’t Transocean cost them billions of bucks?
    If BP’s to blame, why’s Transocean willing
    To lease once again to a bunch of dumb clucks?
    Or are they such liars they don’t plan to pay,
    After going on record to promise they would
    If we set no limit on how many they kill?
    Can’t anyone see that they’re up to no good?
    The oil they supply is a very small fraction
    Of the oil we are wasting but think that we need.
    What better way to begin cutting back
    Than to make sure their profits are mere chickenfeed?
    Call their bluff. We don’t need them, their spills and their threats.
    We’ll pass more legislation that will settle their hash.
    The blackmail they threaten should teach us a lesson:
    Before they drill again, let’s insist on hard cash.
    Bob Carlson
    On Twitter @PBoondoggles
    To ‘BP Says Limits on Drilling Imperil Oil Spill Payouts’
    To ‘Transocean Tries to Cut Future Oil-Spill Losses
    to $27 Million’
    To ‘BP Blackmailers’
    To ‘British Petroleum Incompetence’

  6. 35_year_oilpatch_veteran says

    “I don’t believe the centralizers were a factor because I question their effectiveness, especially in small gauge holes, such as this one.”
    Have you seen a caliper log from this well? You probably won’t until it is introduced as evidence in court, or released by law to the public by the successor to MMS in 2.5 years. The “small guage” is just the bit size, not the actual size of the hole, as measured by a four-arm OBMI caliper log or a separately-run six-arm caliper log. The required cement volume must be calculated from a multi-arm caliper log.
    In the Mississippi Canyon area, shales and silts are unconsolidated, and can easily wash out. The fact that they were losing mud to the formation tells me that the hole was seriously washed out. An elliptical hole with insufficient casing centralization can cause the liner to eccenter to one side, leaving too much cement on one side of the hole and not enough on the other. This causes “channeling”, or bad cement bonding between cement and formation, providing an upward path for hydrocarbons. Halliburton recommended 21 centralizers for a good reason, very probably washed-out hole. BP only ran seven centralizers.
    You must let the cement completely set. API guidelines suggest 48 hours. EPA recommends 72 hours. They were already displacing 14 PPG mud with seawater 20 hours after the end of cementing with the allegedly “quick setting” nitogen-foam cement.
    Best practices then dictate the running of a Cement Bond Log. The CBL is an acoustic device that can identify cement channeling. Schlumberger was on standby for three days, waiting to run the CBL. The SLB crew was released the morning before the blowout without running the CBL. That’s because the CBL is “optional”, not required by MMS.
    Washed-out hole, unconsolidated formation, lost mud returns, “green” nitrogen-foam cement, insufficient centralizers, no CBL log, 3000 units of gas kicking across the mudpit, and these fools were displacing 14 PPG mud with seawater? The failed blowout preventer was just icing on the cake in this worst-case-scenario test of the Law of Cascading Snafus.

  7. vikinghou says

    I haven’t read the report, but I suspect foamed cement was used because a longstring was being cemented, and the hydrostatic pressure exerted by a conventional slurry would have risked formation breakdown. Cementing in two stages would have been preferable, but more costly and time-consuming. Foamed cement can be risky in oil wells because the surfactants that create and stabilize the foam may be sensitive to liquid-hydrocarbon contamination (e.g., condensate or crude oil). If the foam collapsed owing to contamination, loss of well control would be a possible result.

  8. WindorSolarPlease says

    The reason why I believe this happened is, because of Greed and Lies. Do things fast, cheap, cut corners, and then lie admitting nothing.
    This has to be one of the dangerous jobs that can involve all of us in some way, and it has.
    The Greed and the lies are still in play here, BP and some others have not learned their lesson.
    I am far from a professional and I am trying to understand. Please correct me if I am wrong, because I really want to be wrong.
    I believe the casing is wrecked and all of it is a mess in there, and I also believe that under the sea floor is seeping more than normally.
    I don’t know if to much mud and stuff have been pushed to far.
    I think it is like a crimped hose, it finds other areas of weakness and lets the oil come out.
    I think things are happening that we don’t even know about.
    Will a relief well kill it with a bad casing? I do think we need to try the relief well. If that doesn’t work, I see using explosives on it. I would like to see them try using another explosive than a nuclear one. I think they would use the nuclear one first, if they haven’t already.
    What is the possibility, that the sea floor will erupt with explosions of gasses, toxic fumes, fire, and then a tsunami happens? Also, earth quakes in other States would happen, involving Yellowstone to go off? Are these conspiracy theories or is this very probable? I have heard that they really tapped into a volcano.
    If that happened, would there be any place in this world that would not be effected by this?
    So many rumors are flying, it’s hard to figure out what will probably happen.
    If I was to guess on how this will play out. I would guess that the gulf, ocean, beaches will never be the same. Everything on the bottom of the gulf will move, get into the gulf stream, and eventually come up. We already know it has killed and/or making marine life toxic and that this pollution is toxic to us.
    I think they will control the oil to some degree, but there will always be leaks.
    I also think they will keep trying to get that oil.

  9. says

    All good points. I was focused on the bottom section of the hole which was only 8.5″ with 7″ casing. Also, total volume was 47 barrels outside, which is designed for virtually gauge for 1100′ of fill, but designed on actual caliper.
    In terms of washouts, that argues against use of centralizers, since they wouldn’t touch the walls anyway. Nitrified cement has low compressive strength for hours, so I agree that a CBL wouldn’t have been informative. Also agree that displacing the riser when they did was stupid.

  10. WindorSolarPlease says

    I would like to pretend none of this mess in the Gulf is real, but we know better. There is too much proof.
    I am shocked at the way some of our government officials have handled this disaster and is treating the poor people in the Gulf region, and the lies that are being served up to the rest of us.
    It’s one thing to experience a disaster as a nation and everyone pitching in and working together and sharing their grief and becoming more unified because of it, but it is entirely another thing to allow something like this to happen due to greed and negligence and then destroy the moral of the American people trying to cover it up because of big business and selfish, perverted priorities.
    It feels like things are closing in on us whether we like it or not. Most likely this will eventually effect all of us in some way.
    This is just the beginning of peoples sorrows.
    Best advice..stay close to God.

  11. H2BAnon says

    I have looked but I don’t find that you are an engineer or a registered PE.
    You draw some pretty hard conclusions about something you worked on 20+ years ago. Maybe you have some good support for what you are saying but I think that your insight has major short comings. When was the last time you got dirty fingernails on the rig floor?
    I am a registered PE and have 30+ years in the offshore O&G business. I have been on rigs and in construction yards. In my experience while acting as a ‘company man’ on a major construction job for a major oil company …. we aren’t the last word on anything except the checks we write to the contractors who are the ‘experts’ at what they do for us. That’s why we hire them!
    I don’t exonerate BP for their part in what happened but I also think that Transocean, Haliburton, MMS and the USCG were major players in the disaster. I have yet to hear them analyze what they did to contribute the the event. BP has and is stepping up and taking responsibility.
    Jumping on the ‘blame BP’ bandwagon is too easy. Looking at youself, Transocean, Haliburton, MMS, USCG and discovering what you, Transocean, Haliburton, MMS, USCG did to contribute to the event is much harder.
    There were a lot of engineers, offshore managers, supervisors and regulators that would do well to look at themselves before putting all the blame on BP. It might feel good or play well for the lawyers, politician, pundits and glory seakers but it won’t help us improve safety procedures and decisions.
    BP put a report out for all to read. Now if you or anyone else can do some real analysis and refute or add to what they have, go for it. But what I see and hear is a bunch of bystanders piling on blame and criticism without adding value

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