'Unprecedented combination of failures' caused the oil spill - BP

By Phaedra Friend Troy

Although BP has not reached its final conclusion, the major petroleum producer is sharing its initial findings as to the causes of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico with the Department of the Interior and other governmental agencies.

For comprehensive coverage of the Deepwater Horizon incident, oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and efforts under way to resolve them, visit PennEnergy's Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico special section.

BP claims that the accident was caused by the failure of various processes, systems and equipment. There were a number of safety features in place that should have prevented or at least mitigated the oil spill.

“I understand people want a simple answer about why this happened and who is to blame,” said Tony Hayward, chief executive of BP. “The honest truth is that this is a complex accident, caused by an unprecedented combination of failures. A number of companies are involved, including BP, and it is simply too early -- and not up to us -- to say who is at fault.”

The British company is focusing on seven aspects of the Macondo drilling procedure, including the cement on the well that was supposed to seal flow from escaping. The casing system is also being investigated because it should have sealed the wellbore, and pressure tests should have confirmed that the well was sealed.

Furthermore, there should have been a number of practices in place to detect and control the hydrocarbons within the Macondo well, including the blowout preventer (BOP).

The investigation is also focusing on the emergency disconnect system on the BOP, which should have been activated by pushing a button aboard the rig. Additionally, the BOP should have automatically closed when connection was lost with the drilling rig.

Finally, the BOP should have features that allow remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to close the BOP and seal the well on the seafloor after a blowout has occurred.

All of these systems and procedures, BP claims may have contributed to the blowout, the fire and explosion aboard the rig, the oil spill, and the inability to stop the oil from flowing from the well.

“This was a tragic accident, and we need to understand the causes of it to try to ensure that nothing like it ever happens again,” Hayward added.

Additional investigations that need to be conducted to fully determine the cause of the oil spill include further interviews and a full forensic examination of both the BOP and the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which are currently located 5,000 feet below the water’s surface on the seafloor.

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