US inquiry into Gulf of Mexico oil spill ‘blocked’ by BP supplier National Oilwell Varco


Investigators looking into BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill have accused one of the energy giant’s suppliers of obstructing the inquiry.

The White House oil spill commission said that National Oilwell Varco (NYSE: NOV – news) is not cooperating with its requests for information.

US officials need the company’s help to recreate what the crew who died in the accident might have seen on their monitors in the moments before the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded. The accident, on April 20, killed 11 men.

“For over a month, we have attempted to elicit National Oilwell Varco’s assistance on this matter,” the panel’s investigators said in a letter to commissioners.

“They have been generally uncooperative, either in the form of refusal or delay.”

The investigators have no power of subpoena, so they are relying on the goodwill of companies to submit to requests for information.

National Oilwell Varco is the US’s largest equipment supplier for the oil industry and it provided the rig’s crew with proprietary data displays, which give information about the flow of oil.

The company said in a statement it supports the panel’s investigation but added “manufacturing guesses as to what was displayed on the rig’s computers runs a serious risk of producing a misleading picture.

“We rejected their requests to synthesise hypothetical computer displays utilising limited mud data provided by the Commission because these would not be accurate or fair.”

It added that it was “surprised” by the Commission’s letter since it believes it has responded constructively to requests for assistance.

The commission argues that recreated data would be imperfect but would “significantly advance our investigation.”

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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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