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Systemic failures to blame for BP oil spill, inquiry finds

Reuters/BP

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill was the result of cost-cutting measures by BP and its partners, Halliburton and Transocean, according to a report issued by the White House Oil Spill Commission. The report warned that the three companies could be liable for billions of dollars in compensation.

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The report condemned a systemic management failure at the three companies and predicted that a similar disaster could recur because of endemic industry complacency.

The blow-out on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig on 20 April killed 11 men and leaked 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico in the worst spill in US history.

The commission condemned BP for not ensuring that its key decisions leading up to the explosion were sound from an engineering perspective.

"Most of the mistakes and oversights at Macondo (oil field) can be traced back to a single overarching failure – a failure of management," the report said.

The report preview specifically criticised nine decisions which increased risk, most of which were judged to have saved BP time and money.

The seven-member commission will release its full report on 11 January.

Analysts say that its findings will be critical for the hundreds of civil suits that Gulf of Mexico residents and businesses are expected to file.

The bulk of the blame for the burst pipe, which initially went undetected, was directed towards a faulty cementing job at the base of the well, performed by Halliburton.

BP was blamed for poor oversight of the masonry work and for misreading subsequent pressure test readings.

Transocean, the world’s largest offshore drilling labour contractor, was faulted for failing to communicate to its crew the risks of deepwater drilling even after an accident had been narrowly avoided just months earlier.

In a statement, Transocean placed the blame with procedures that had been approved by BP and federal regulators.

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