‘Bad Management’ Led To Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill But UK Presses On With Deep Sea Drilling Plans
Two closely related news stories about fossil-fuel exploration and the high risk of oil spills in the oceans have emerged in the last 24 hours based on the publication of two reports.
Firstly, comes a 48 page report has been issued by a US presidential commission looking at the Gulf of Mexico tragedy. The other report concerns the development of deep water oil and gas production in UK waters.
The US panel (as reported by the BBC) has found that the companies involved in the oil spill had ‘made decisions to cut costs and save time that contributed to the disaster’. The panel also described the failures made as "systemic" and likely to recur without industry and government reform.
The Macondo well, about a mile under the sea's surface, eventually leaked millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, damaging hundreds of miles of coastline and with effects on wildlife, including whales and dolphins that are still being investigated.
BP – one of the companies running the well - said in a statement that the company was working with regulators "to ensure the lessons learned from Macondo lead to improvements in operations and contractor services in deepwater drilling".
US government regulators are also criticised in the report which said that they had only very limited oversight of these various activities and decisions, that the agency responsible in the Department of the Interior was understaffed, and lacked the inspectors and technical analysts who were fully up to the task.
(The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling was convened in May by President Barack Obama who investigated the root causes of the spill and recommend changes to industry and government policy.)
At the same time as the US Commission has been in progress, the UK has been looking at its offshore drilling operations and a committee of MPs has now decided there should be no suspension of deepwater drilling in British waters (despite calls from environmental groups) because it would risk Britain's energy security.
However, in the UK report, MPs make particular comment on the "harsh conditions" off the west coast of Shetland, Scotland, where oil wells are being drilled more than 1,000 metres deep, saying they had "serious doubts" about the ability of clean-up equipment to function in such an environment.
In addition, the committee's chairman, Tim Yeo MP, also questioned the response plans currently in place, saying that such plans must be site-specific and not generic: "Companies cannot continue producing cut and paste oil spill response plans and rig operators must make it easier for staff to raise concerns without fear of intimidation".
Sources: BBC New website:
Excerpts from the US report