Human rights impacts of oil pollution: US Gulf Coast

Companies' actions & roles in explosion & spill

Introduction

The Macondo well is a joint venture of BP (65% ownership), Anadarko (25%) and Moex Offshore (part of Mitsui Oil Exploration, which is majority-owned by Mitsui & Co.) (10%).  BP is the joint venture operator.

The Deepwater Horizon rig was owned by Transocean and leased to BP.  Nine of the workers killed in the explosion and fire were Transocean employees while two worked for drilling services contractor M-I Swaco (joint venture Smith Intl. & Schlumberger).

In a report on the causes of the disaster released on 8 September 2010, BP made eight “key findings related to the causes of the accident,” including findings regarding

  • a cement barrier pumped into the well the day before by Halliburton;
  • a test regarding “well integrity” – BP says that “The Transocean rig crew and BP well site leaders reached the incorrect view that the test was successful”;
  • the influx of volatile hydrocarbons past the “blowout preventer”, which the rig crew did not recognise;
  • actions that the crew could have taken that “may have reduced” the consequences of the accident; and
  • the blowout preventer, made by Cameron International, which did not seal the well.

Experts interviewed by the Wall Street Journal supported the theory that the “cementing” work by Halliburton could have contributed to the explosion.  US Congressman Bart Stupak, chairing an oversight committee that investigated the spill, said that the blowout preventer was “apparently defective”.

According to the Financial Times, Halliburton and Transocean both emphasised BP’s role in overseeing the well and making key technical decisions in testimony before the US Senate in May 2010.  Responding to the September 2010 BP report, the Los Angeles Times reported that Halliburton said it had found a "number of substantial omissions and inaccuracies" in the report and "remains confident that all the work it performed…was completed in accordance with BP's specifications."  According to the Houston Chronicle, Transocean called the BP document a “self-serving report that attempts to conceal the critical factor that set the stage for the Macondo incident: BP’s fatally flawed well design.”  Cameron has defended its blowout preventers as having “a very long history of reliable performance.”

BP has sought reimbursement of over $1 billion from Anadarko and $479 million from Moex Offshore of the $8 billion it has spent on oil spill response (as of 3 September).  To date, Anadarko and Moex have declined to reimburse BP.  Anadarko’s Chairman and CEO said in an 18 June statement, “The mounting evidence clearly demonstrates that this tragedy was preventable and the direct result of BP's reckless decisions and actions.”  BP rejected the accusation.  A US Senate subcommittee has also asked why Anadarko and Moex are not contributing to the $20 billion escrow fund established by BP to reimburse those losing livelihoods to the spill.

Transocean has sought to cap any liability in connection with the disaster at $26.7 million.  The US Department of Justice has questioned this move by Transocean.

Concerns have been raised about the toxicity of chemicals used by BP to disperse the oil, which were produced by Nalco (see our separate section on health impacts related to dispersants).

This section includes information on:

 

See also this portal's section: "Lawsuits, regulatory & legislative action following explosion & spill - Lawsuits between companies", including information about companies' claims about the responsibility that other companies bear for the disaster.

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Related stories and components

Article
19 June 2010

BP rejects oil drill partner's 'negligence' claim [USA]

Author: BBC News

BP has denied claims by one of its partners that its handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill amounted to "gross negligence"...BP said it "strongly disagrees" with Anadarko Petroleum, who said BP's behaviour in the run-up to the disaster was "reckless...

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