BP Exec Defends Company’s Report On Gulf Oil Spill

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The executive of BP plc (NYSE:BP) (LON:BP) who led the internal investigation of the oil company defended the contents of his team’s report in his testimony during the civil trial on the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill that happened in the Gulf of Mexico, three years ago.

Last week, Professor Robert Bea of the University of California, Berkeley testified that BP plc (NYSE:BP) (LON:BP)’s internal probe of the explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was flawed. According to him, the investigation did not evaluate possible systemic causes such as the decisions made by the oil company’s management prior to the accident.

Transocean attorney Brad Brian, the legal counsel of Transocean LTD (NYSE:RIG), asked Bly why the investigation did not evaluate any decision made by BP plc (NYSE:BP) (LON:BP) onshore that were designed to save money and time. During his questioning, he noted that the Macondo project was behind schedule and over budgeted for.

Brian asked, “Did you think it was relevant to your investigation whether the people on the shore were making decisions that increased risk in order to save money?”

Mark Bly, former global head safety of BP plc (NYSE:BP) (LON:BP) responded that his team’s investigation focused on the “engineering trade-offs and risk decisions” instead of evaluating the costs behind certain decisions that led to the explosion. Bly said, “It was more driven by the accident we were investigating. The Bly Report concentrated on mistakes made by rig workers and failure of equipments.

Attorney Brian also asked the reason behind the exclusion of a call made by BP rig supervisor Donald Vidrine to Mark Hafle, an onshore engineer in the Bly report. The lawyer noted that the call was made less than an hour prior to the explosion that killed 11 workers and caused that offshore oil spill in the history of the United States.

In his testimony, Bly said that the call was an “after-the-fact-conversation” and the details of the discussion between the rig supervisor and the onshore engineer were not clear. Bly pointed out that his team’s report covered test results “comprehensively.”

BP investigators were aware of the telephone conversation between Hafle and Vidrine discussing the results of a crucial safety test, which was allegedly misinterpreted by BP’s rig supervisor.  Based on the investigators notes, Hafle told them that the results showed that the test was possibly not properly lined up.

In September 2010, BP’s report indicated that investigators found no evidence that the rig crew of Transocean LTD (NYSE:RIG) or BP’s rig supervisors consulted anyone outside their team regarding the test results.

Attorney Brian asked if Bly just decided to exclude his handwritten notes or the interviews conducted by his team with Hafle. Bly replied, “I don’t recall.”

Vidrine and Robert Kaluza, well site leader for BP plc (NYSE:BP) (LON:BP) were indicted with manslaughter for allegedly disregarding abnormal high-pressure readings, an obvious sign that there was a problem prior the explosion on April 2010. The two men are waiting for a separate trial.

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) accused BP of gross negligence and willful misconduct during the deadly blowout and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The DOJ also filed lawsuits against Transocean LTD (NYSE:RIG), Halliburton Company (NYSE:HAL) and several other companies.

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