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Witness Says Deepwater Horizon Accident Was 'Classic Failure of Management'

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Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

NEW ORLEANS - An expert witness for plaintiffs suing BP PLC said the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident was "a classic failure of management and leadership in BP," at the trial here in Federal District Court over liability for the disaster.

Robert Bea, a University of California Berkeley engineering professor who has worked as a safety consultant for BP starting in 2001, said Tuesday that he sent many warnings to the company's management in the years before the accident about how cost-cutting would hurt the safety of operations.

"It was too lean," Mr. Bea said of BP's operations after it reduced spending.

The testimony came on the second day of the civil trial that will determine the degree of culpability that BP and the other companies have for the accident, which killed 11 workers. On Monday lawyers for BP, drilling contractors Transocean Ltd. (RIG) and Halliburton Corp. (HAL), the federal government, Gulf Coast states and local businesses traded barbs over who was to blame for the explosion that unleashed the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Mr. Bea also criticized BP's own internal investigation of the Deepwater Horizon incident for failing to investigate management decisions leading up to the accident. Instead, he said, BP's study, known as The Bly Report, focused on the direct cause of the explosion on the drilling rig and the role that equipment and crew on the rig played.

During cross-examination, Mike Brock, a lawyer for BP, tried to challenge the credibility of Mr. Bea's testimony, emphasizing the limits of his expertise and emphasizing the role the companies suing BP played in providing him information for a report he did that was critical of BP's work leading up to the blowout.

"You understood that the plaintiff's legal team was focused on finding documents that hurt BP, not helped BP?" Mr. Brock asked.

Mr. Bea said he and his colleagues "were searching for the truth, the facts."

Mr. Brock also walked Mr. Bea through many efforts the company and its management made over the years to improve its safety operations, including surveying workers about safety operations.

BP has argued that the accident was due to many errors and misjudgments by all of the companies involved in the project, including rig owner Transocean and cement contractor Halliburton.

Other witnesses expected soon include Lamar McKay, chairman and president of BP Americas, and previously recorded depositions of former BP CEO Tony Hayward and Kevin Lacy, the former head of BP's Gulf of Mexico operations.

A second trial, scheduled for the fall, will determine how much oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico. Together, they will determine the size of fines the companies face under the Clean Water Act, which could total as much as $17.6 billion.

BP, which hired Transocean and Halliburton to work on drilling its well, has said the fines would likely be under $5 billion.

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Post a Comment Generated by readers, the comments included herein do not reflect the views and opinions of Rigzone. All comments are subject to editorial review. Off-topic, inappropriate or insulting comments will be removed.
P | Mar. 24, 2013
Everyone knows its the operator, and not the contractor, who writes the music. The contractor just does not know how to write (and often cannot even read) but plays as told. So, as Tony is mentioning in his comment, we should take care to first train and select competent contractors in order to avoid fatalities in the future. The written music is getting more and more complicated to understand and associated risks are more and more difficult to detect. Next the responsible governmental watchdog should be trained to be able to competently evaluate and approve, maybe the fine money can serve the training purpose.

J.A. | Mar. 1, 2013
The B.P. CEO, Tony Hayward is the epitome of stupidity in management. He allowed the original situation to get away from him. He should have ensured that Transocean and Halliburton were in the forefront of the original investigation. The rig was owned by Transocean, therefore, they had the final say in the drilling operation. The OIM was in charge of the rig, not BP, not the "Company Man", not Halliburton. If the OIM disagreed on the methods used, then he has the authority to shut-down operations until faults are rectified. In addition, BP did not own the BOP unit, or control unit The unit failed in a spectacular fashion and Tony Hayward ,(not having the sense God gave to horses) failed to put the burden directly onto Transocean for speedy resolution. BP merely rented the rig, and the rental equipment failed. Likewise the Halliburton cementing job was, by all accounts, a farce. However, the Rigs equipment for "Blowout" prevention is supposed to work when required. The "mudman" and the Driller, are supposed to be able to discern a "kick" and then take the appropriate action. It would appear that there had been a breakdown in communication between the rig floor and the associated personnel. In addition, it would appear that the "remote" BOP control station failed to operate. BPs handling of the affair was abysmal and Tony Hayward should have been terminated for incompetence and ignorance.

Tony | Mar. 1, 2013
11 people lost their lives, and from that tragic day the focus continually surrounds equipment and fines!! We must ask ourselves, what are we doing to sincerely believe, we as an industry, will prevent this from ever happening again?


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