The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) Friday released the findings of its investigation into allegations that BP Exploration and Oil, Inc. (NYSE:BP) did not maintain required copies of engineer-approved drawings for its Atlantis oil and gas platform operating in the Gulf of Mexico. The investigation stemmed from an April 2009 lawsuit filed under the False Claims Act by a former BP contractor. The former contractor alleged that BP did not properly maintain the engineer-approved “as built” drawings of systems and structures aboard the Atlantis facility. The contractor alleged that the absence of the documentation created increased safety risks for the facility and to its personnel.
The investigation included interviews of 29 individuals, analysis of more than 3,400 engineering drawings and related documents, and review of hundreds of additional documents. Based on a thorough review of the evidence, the investigation found the majority of the allegations to be unfounded, but did find that there were a number of problems with the way that BP organized, stored, and labeled engineering drawings and documents. BOEMRE found no evidence that these documentation deficiencies created specific unsafe conditions on the Atlantis production platform. BOEMRE concluded that Mr. Abbott’s allegations that Atlantis operations personnel lacked access to critical, engineer-approved drawings were without merit and that his allegations about false submissions by BP to BOEMRE were unfounded.
“This report reflects a careful and comprehensive investigation of the allegations by an interdisciplinary team of lawyers, structural engineers, and other BOEMRE personnel, led by our Investigations and Review Unit,” said BOEMRE Director Michael R. Bromwich. “As the report makes clear, although we found significant problems with the way BP labeled and maintained its engineering drawings and related documents, we found the most serious allegations to be without merit, including the suggestion that a lack of adequate documentation created a serious safety risk on the Atlantic facility. We found no credible evidence to support that claim."
During its investigation, BOEMRE also found that BP failed to file with BOEMRE certain required drawings depicting changes to some production safety system components. Once BOEMRE determined that BP had failed to file the safety system drawings, it issued an Incident of Non-Compliance (INC) for the infraction. BP has since provided the required drawings to BOEMRE. BOEMRE concluded that the infraction did not pose an immediate safety risk for the platform. Because BP corrected the violation shortly after issuance of the INC, BOEMRE did not refer the violation for civil penalties. BOEMRE is in the process of evaluating potential enhancements to its civil penalty programs – including revision of current regulations and changes to existing policies.