BP Provides Lessons Learned From Gulf Spill


LONDON — BP PLC Friday disclosed various lessons and capabilities built from trouble-shooting the big oil spill in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico which, it said, would allow the industry to more quickly cope with any future offshore oil drilling accidents.

“These advances can serve as part of an initial discussion on how to institutionalize the increased capabilities and ensure that they can be readily mobilized in addressing a marine oil spill of any size,” the company said in a 46-page report it prepared for the main U.S. offshore drilling regulator.

A BP spokesman said the report was aimed at providing a preliminary outline of some of the important lessons learned in the course of responding to the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. The report was prepared for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.

The April 20 rig explosion killed 11 oil workers and resulted in one of the biggest oil spills in U.S. history.

But the BP report underscores just how unprepared the company and the oil industry were to combat a major offshore oil drilling accident, a point acknowledged in the report.

“It would have been extremely difficult for any one company to address the challenges resulting from Deepwater Horizon alone,” BP said.

Still, the company said, major advances were made in the major response that followed the April 20 blast. For instance, the team charged with containing the oil spill built and installed a subsea manifold system—to help remove hydrocarbons from the leaking wellhead—in just two weeks compared with the 18 to 24 months it usually takes to construct and deploy under normal circumstances.

Working with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency, BP said it took a “novel approach” to the use of dispersants to reduce the environmental and safety impact of the oil. That approach entailed “the first subsea injection of dispersant directly into oil at the source.”

A total of more than 14 million feet of containment boom were laid in various areas of the gulf to basically corral oil and prevent it from spreading onshore. This deployment is an example of the sort of collaboration among suppliers that evolved in the days after the blast as more industry personnel got involved in the effort, BP said.

The company also said Friday that there was currently no oil flowing from the well into the Gulf of Mexico. The accident resulted in some five million barrels of crude spilling into the gulf. While large oil volumes have been collected, analysts and environmentalists still dispute exactly how much oil has been removed from gulf waters.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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