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Oil Rig Safety Expert Bill Campbell comments on the BP Report

Bill Campbell, former HSE Group Auditor of Shell International, answers questions put to him concerning the BP Report published on 8 September 2010.

(Extracts from Bill’s response)

I was asked by both BBC TV and Channel 4 to comment on the BP report in last night news features but couldn’t manage due to other constraints.

What do you think of the timing of BP’s report into Deepwater Horizon?

Given the limitations put on them I think it looks reasonable.  Cannot understand the open hostility to BP with comments like BP share the blame.  The fact is ref my article A Can of Worms there is a lot of blame to be shared around.  In the ambulance chasing Society that is the U.S. you seek out the guys with the deepest pockets.  The report is at least an opportunity away from the face to face confrontation for BP to state their case and I think they do that well.  Whether they are right or not remains to be seen.

Their Achilles heel is clearly the well design for which they were accountable.  I cannot judge this being not competent to do so but their case is clearly that a significant proportion of the 2000 wells drilled in Deepwater in the last few years were drilled using this design in the Gulf (and elsewhere) with no apparent problems.  That is a powerful argument and their case will be robust if the cement tests confirm that the cement job was sub-standard.  For operating with the BOP in the condition it was, a TransOcean principal responsibility, BP must share some of the collective responsibility and I think in the report they accept that there were failures on their side.

You need to remember that whilst in civil proceedings guilt can be assessed on the balance of probabilities, in criminal proceedings (where I think all this will end up) it needs be established beyond all reasonable doubt.

Do you think it’s proper and correct to release such a report before the authorities?

Yes –  again as stated above who exactly is investigating this thing.  Compare it with Piper Alpha, Law Lord appointed, team selected, Inquiry held with wide remit with evidence provided in a Court Room atmosphere without the feeding frenzy that we see post Deepwater Horizon.

The Release of the Report at this time – probably not the right time but what alternative did they have.   It seems like everybody and his dog is being employed investigating this thing and we even now have the FBI guarding the BOP.  Where are the CSB in all this, they hardly get a mention?  What single authority has the overview, who will pull it all together?

Is the Report probably a ploy to influence society, media, a PR stunt?

Well since they have had the world against them and since they have agreed to pick up the clean up costs they have every right to state their case.  You cannot say that the US president, the Congress or the US media have handled this event in a balanced way.

Many make reference to it being a Transocean owned and operated rig, but to pretend that a Company man cannot and does not influence an OIM is naive.

Having been an OIM from 1984 to 1990 followed by Asset Manager for three years, I agree that at times pressure is put upon you but that is why great care needs to be taken in the selection and training of folks put into this key position.  The TransOocean position is that after the event they want to transfer their accountabilities back to BP.  Lets put it another way, if you were the OIM on Deepwater would you have accepted that a BOP had its functionality altered so that it would not be as reliable in an Emergency, would you have accepted that the redundancy provided by the yellow pod was missing but lets just carry on, would you have accepted that rubber from the annular was coming back to the surface but ‘don’t worry’;  would you have accepted that fire and gas alarms were constantly inhibited etc etc.  No. I agree with you, I do not think you would.  In the last analysis the OIM should provide the line in the sand over which no person or activity can cross.  If this is not the case then such a person should not be in position because we had moved on Deepwater Horizon away from a regime with any system of risk awareness and hazard management to that of a regime more akin to casino gambling.  Gambling not for chips, but for the lives of all those who looked to him for protection.

Bill

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