BP oil spill report: Q & A

Many of the questions are attempts to get behind the report, for example, whether BP was taking extra risks to cut costs, how high the responsibility goes up the organization and whether there is a systemic problem at BP that needs addressing.

Bly insists that his remit was not to address those issues, but to focus on exactly what went wrong on April 20. But he does offer opinions on all of those subjects.

Asked whether BP had cut corners with safety to save money, he says: “My view is that we did not see any indications to support that.”

And on the question of whether workers on the rig were rushing to finish up and move off to another site, he says: “There was simultaneous activity . . . that may have been part of people not seeing what was going on,” but that does not necessarily mean that they were taking extra risks or became careless.

On the responsibility of BP staff, he is clear that they made mistakes, in particular in the fatal decision to go ahead with the procedure to detach the rig from the well, even though the test results apparently showing that it was safe to do so was misleading.

“There were both Transocean and BP people on the rig floor that night,” he says.

There was also a phone call between the rig and BP’s exploration and production HQ in Houston not long before the explosion, but by then it may have been already too late.

Perhaps his most intriguing point is his discussion of whether there was a general problem of the safety culture at BP that made it possible for managers to take these decisions without thinking that they needed to look for additional certainty or refer to HQ for guidance.

That question was not part of his remit, Mr Bly says, but he has gone beyond his brief to make 26 recommendations about how BP should respond. He highlights issues such as procedures for conducting and interpreting well tests, the capabilities of BOPs, and understanding of cementing processes.

One of the report’s most eye-catching recommendations is the call for BP to assess its “high consequence drilling activities as a priority, starting with the Gulf of Mexico Exploration and Appraisal drilling team.”

He is asked if anyone will be fired following this report, to which he replies that it is too soon to say.

“We believe that we can drill these wells safely,” Bly adds. “Accidents should be preventable.”

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