The Houston Chronicle has a piece today on an advance copy of a report by the Republic of the Marshall Islands on the Deepwater Horizon disaster last year which indicates that the rig’s explosion was caused by factors not endemic to the offshore oil industry.
The crew of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig failed to react to “multiple indications” of problems with BP’s Macondo well before it blew out, but divergence from industry standards and plans approved by regulators also played a role in the accident, according to a new investigation report.
The report, by the Republic of the Marshall Islands, under whose flag the Deepwater Horizon sailed, also recommends changes to procedures for activating emergency well-disconnecting systems and maintaining giant well-sealing blowout preventers on the sea floor.
But, unlike previous investigation reports, it does not attempt to assign blame to BP or other companies involved in the accident.
“We were just trying to go through the findings of fact,” Bill Gallagher, senior deputy commissioner of maritime affairs for the Republic of the Marshall Islands, said in an interview Tuesday ahead of the release of the 216-page report today. “We’re not into getting into naming and blaming at this point in time.”
The Deepwater Horizon, owned by Switzerland-based Transocean, which has large offices in Houston, is one of many deep water drilling rigs that carry the flag of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. As such, the island nation in the Pacific Ocean was responsible for overseeing the safety and integrity of the vessel.
The Marshall Islands was blamed for poor oversight by the Coast Guard and the Interior Department. But Gallagher denied that was the issue, saying “You’ve had a lot of regulators on board giving the actual thumbs up as far as the rig was concerned with no deficiencies pointed out.” In other words, the rig wasn’t faulty – the well was faulty, not the rig, and as such the Marshall Islands’ regulatory regime had nothing to do with what happened.
What it did say was this…
In an executive summary of the report, obtained by the Chronicle on Tuesday, the Marshall Islands identifies just three direct causes of the accident — the crew’s failure to detect well control problems; deviation from standards of well control engineering; and deviation from well abandonment plans approved by the former Minerals Management Service.
Boiled down, the reports says the Macondo disaster happened because the people working on that well screwed up. As virtually everybody else in the business has been screaming from the rooftops, this is not how offshore oil drilling is done, and had BP not been grossly deficient in its operations from industry standards the accident and the oil spill would never have happened.
This isn’t a surprise. This was largely known soon after the spill. And yet the Obama administration instituted a drilling moratorium that even its own panel of engineering experts said was stupid and counterproductive.
The effect of this? Well, here’s the Baker Hughes Louisiana rig count, which is the best indicator of what the Obama administration’s policies have done to the oil industry in the state…
If you look at the blue bars, which constitute the counts from 24 months ago to 12 months ago, you’ll see that up until April of last year the oil patch was soaking up every rig it could find to put to work drilling American oil and producing American jobs. Then Obama came along and those numbers went down the tubes – and now they’re just sitting there.
The Louisiana offshore rig count has managed to recover, slightly…
That looks a little better, but it’s still down 16 rigs from the 47 which were in operation in April of last year. And there’s little reason to believe absent the moratorium that the rig count would have continued to climb.
Bear in mind there hasn’t been a Gulf lease sale in 2011 and apparently there won’t be one, so there’s a very limited ceiling for the current count to grow.
All because of a government policy that time and again gets exposed for missing the mark in addressing what it purported to.