Latest October 9th 2010

APRIL 29th 2010
You can read and hear all about this so I will not repeat the obvious. The sea floor where this well was drilled is very deep. The emergency shut-down mechanisms in the heart of the well failed. It is impossible to get at it to cap it at that depth and the violence of the high-pressure rush of oil would make it difficult at any depth. So regardless of any extra drilling to try to divert and control the output, which will take a long time, there will have to be extraordinary measures put in hand to contain the oil which will continue to an uncontrolled way.

President Obama is clearly aware of the seriousness of the situation and is going to put all his nation's available intellectual, technical and financial resources onto the job. That is what makes this a really interesting case. We shall now see exactly what that means. George Bush would no doubt be flying over the scene telling us somebody was doing a great job. I think Obama has enough imagination to grasp the problem without adding to the work and an administration sufficiently awake to assist BP in minimizing the damage. But it will be Obama who will have to take the decision when certain options are put to him on the possible measures to be taken, how quickly they might be implemented, the cost and and how it could be borne and over what period of time. Time is of the essence.

MAY 1st 2010
I have headed this "The BP Oil Leak" because it is BP who is the big player who must organize the cleanup and the shut down. However, the rig which blew is run a by a subcontractor, the biggest in the world for these operations and a company with an excellent safety record.
The fishermen whose business is at risk would not have a business without customers, and their customers are dependent on oil, and oil comes from where we find it - which now includes the sea where the fish are.
Life is risky, folk. We all share the risk. So don't let's start some absurd blame game here unless there is a case of negligence. At the moment there is no indication of what caused this accident. It is great idea to stop the drilling of new wells of this type till they have found out what went wrong - unless they don't find out and America needs more oil and it can't get it elsewhere. In that case they will drill again anyway while trying to put more precautions in place regardless of what the actual cause of the accident was in this case.

BP shares have fallen quite a lot. That does not help anyone of course, its the usual reaction of shareholders. But any share movement gives a chance to those who deal to make money. They will spend it on more cars and travel, increasing the demand for oil.....what's that you say? Well yes, it will have to found in the Gulf because all this luxury motoring, travelling and eating has made American youth so obese that according to the generals they can't recruit a future army to secure access to oil overseas even if they could pay for it.

MAY 16th 2010
Various attempts to put a coffer-dam over the major oil leaks and get the oil up in a collected way failed due to ice or frozen methane forming to block the system, however....

BP says latest scheme to halt US oil leak working well

MAY 17 2010
Let's face it, the situation is bloody awful.

MAY 22nd 2010
There has been some success in syphoning off at about 50% effectiveness but progress has ceased, it seems, and problems persist.
The question is being asked by Americans, why is BP still in charge? Short answer: nobody else wants to take the blame if they can't do any better.

....."Still, as simple as it may seem for the government to just take over, the law prevents it, [Coastguard Commandant] Allen said.

After the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, Congress dictated that oil companies be responsible for dealing with major accidents — including paying for all cleanup — with oversight by federal agencies. Spills on land are overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency, offshore spills by the Coast Guard.

MAY 26th 2010
According to a Wall Street Journal report on Wednesday, employees of embattled oil giant BP plc  admitted to Congress that the company made a "fundamental mistake" to continue drilling at its now-infamous Gulf of Mexico site, despite knowing that something was seriously wrong within the well.

Here is the BP update page on what they are doing.

The fact is BP management is very far removed from its field operations. I remember the previous chairman saying he only had two or three people who ever reported to him on a daily basis and given the world-wide size of his company he wondered why John Prescott had to have so many assistants just to run his government department of the environment.

MAY 28th 2010
The latest attempt to block the leak has failed totally. The next attempt will take several days more.

MAY 31 2010
David Strahan writing in The Independent:
"It is easy to understand American hostility to BP, but it is fundamentally misplaced. Never mind that Transocean and Halliburton were also involved and it seems there is plenty of blame to go round. Never mind that more oil is spilled every year in the Niger Delta, where Shell and Exxon are the big operators, and which supplies 40 per cent of US oil imports, without a peep of American protest. Never mind that despite the hyperventilation the slick is still relatively small by historical and international comparison. The plain fact is BP is not uniquely culpable, just unlucky. "
Read the full article, carefully, as it is not about bad luck or excuses but contains a lot of hard fact. Culpability is as spread as sub-prime mortgages.

There was no single villain in the Credit Crunch and sub-prime fiasco, and there is no single company or administrator specially to blame in this case. A flock of sheep is a flock of sheep, moved by the classical forces, whoever happens to be the current ram. But read the article, As Strahan points out this is a small oil field and far from the deepest:
"It could have been so much worse. Had BP suffered a similar accident while drilling for Tiber, a three-billion-barrel field it discovered in the Gulf of Mexico last year under two miles of water, reservoir pressures and oil volumes would have been far higher, and there would be many fewer remotely operated submarines capable of working at this depth.

JUNE 03 2010
Now it is time to dish out some advice (I assume you have read the article linked above).

First of all I would advise all those busy selling BP shares to stop doing that right now.

Second, I would advise all those hoping to bring down the company as an act of revenge, to sue it into bankruptcy, not only to forget it but to realise that BP is the source of proper compensation and the less of this wasted on the legal profession, or on insurance companies and their administrators, the better. Look after this company. It is part of your salvation in the short, medium and long term.

BP is a large, coherent and responsible organization. It is the organization that will clean up the mess and it is the company that will look after the proper claims for damages. The most important claimants are the small ones with no financial margin, and the critical ones that interconnect with many other systems we rely on. In the short term, government and local government and to the extent possible insurance companies should act quickly, helpfully, with out holding the weapon of 'full-and-final-settlement to the head of claimants unless there is mutual agreement so to do. In the short, medium and long term, BP can see it through.

There is a chance the uncontrolled spilling of oil into the Gulf of Mexico can be stopped fairly soon if they can cap the end of the pipe where they have finally managed to cut it (with difficulty, and crookedly). That it will be stopped somehow is certain. Then we have to try to collect, contain and destroy the oil that cannot be recovered for use. That will be done by bacteria whose discovery I remember some time in the 1950s. Since then, scientists have learned how to supply these bacteria with sufficient nitrogen and phosphorous, which they need as energy supply, to keep them going in a massive oil slick or cloud. These bacteria do that, and just that. They occur naturally. All we need to do is manage them.

I hesitate to repeat a recent UK political slogan but it is a fact, we are all in this together. Suing each other only gives money to people who have too much of it already and solves nothing if it harms the company that alone has the resources and the long term income to pay for its unfortunate accident.

Nevertheless, the Chief Executive of BP who said yesterday 'I want my life back' should certainly be sacked for that statement alone. This IS your life mate, get used to it. Or rather it should have been your life but clearly wasn't. You should have asked yourself every day 'what if?' and had plans ready. You had none. Just another greasy pole climber. Now bugger off and do what amuses you and don't do a Fred-the-Shred on us either.

JUNE 10th 2010
Now we have President Obama and various Americans playing the idiot. Since it is BP that will be paying some hefty bills and organizing cleanups of the past and funding new methods for safety in the future, what is the point in trying deliberately to cripple the company by frightening investors world-wide into selling their shares, so that the only winners are some dealing-room aces. The payment of dividends to shareholders is not what would limit BP's responsibility or ability to do the right thing. Now would be the time for Obama, a man with a brain and a mouth, to put them both to intelligent use. I have to say, as a strong Obama supporter, I am staggered by his failure to give some leadership here. This is a big mistake.

JUNE 11th 2010
I have to admit that our media and politicians have been getting it right for a change. All that I would have said has been said. The BP board and chairman are at fault for not planning for the worst case scenario. Surely we are all familiar with Murphy and his law, so the fault lies in the management structure. I already had a go at them about this in the days of Brown (is that spelled with an 'e'?). Where are the guys who are supposed to be thinking the unthinkable and having 5 minutes every day with the chairman and CEO if neither of these is capable of thinking for themselves?  Why was the CEO left out to dry in the US when he was so clearly NOT the man to handle the PR?  The technical management of the crisis, while the efforts of those doing the work has been heroic, still leaves a lot to be desired. Any fool could have seen they would need more than one tanker to take on the oil they collected in the event that their cap worked. Maybe they put efforts in hand to charter one immediately and there are not any available, but it seems to the average member of the public that they underestimate every single issue by massive amounts.

That said, the best way forward is not the destruction or take-over of BP but the employment of its assets, human and other, on the business in hand.

As to UK-US relations I am going to open a file on what has been called The Special Relationship soon. It is going to define it in its current reality once and for all. Where it now goes is important, and that depends on understanding where it has come from and is now.

JUNE 12 2010
Er... yes... some diplomatic language was needed. It's OK for me to call people idiots but our PM has quite rightly realized that even American Presidents can make mistakes (in fact it seems to be an occupational hazard) and rubbing it in is not a good idea. Personally I thought when we had seen the back of George Bush we might have also said goodbye to 'ass-kicking' and the rest of the recent dismal US rhetoric that that would have made Harry Truman cringe. It seems once a man gets into that oval office it really does go to his or her head. I much preferred 'speak softly and carry big stick', an old African saying quoted by Ted Roosevelt,  however, these days the big stick is not such a good idea either as, in a globalized world, any head you break or ass you kick turns out to be your own. [I get a nasty feeling there are some horrible double-entendres hidden there, probably unintentional - Ed.]

It turns out there some unpleasant Texan vultures hoping to get BP's liabilities jacked up to such a level that the share values go right down and they will then mount a take-over, hoping that the actual liabilities will take decades to be paid and that they can safely take on the devalued company and the liabilities while laughing all the way to one of those banks they run so well. In my opinion the best way forward is still to involve as few lawyers and insurance companies as possible and let BP pursue a profitable future from which to pay the immediate, short and longer term costs. The fewer parasites involved, the better.

JUNE 14th 2010
I remain an Obama supporter as the alternatives are seriously unattractive, but what is going on in this man's head? Likening this oil spill, hurtful though it is, to the attack on the World Trade Centre is not only meaningless but, if were to be taken seriously, damagingly misleading. It is a self-inflicted wound. Fortunately I note that the US media has largely ignored this part of his address to the nation, presumably out of embarrassment. The less said on this additional lapse the better.

JUNE 15th 2010
That's more like it. Today Obama addressed America from the White House. He covered the issue, and he made it clear the best brains and all the nations resources were brought to bear on stopping the oil and 90% of the leak would be plugged in 2 weeks and the rest by August. Meantime massive resources were being deployed to limit the damage. Finally, BP would be putting money into a fund to be administered independently administered to assess and pay damages and compensation. The company would be held liable to provide the funding and an expert committee would be set up to establish the precise causes of and responsibility for the events which caused the initial explosion and the failure of safety systems. There will be a six-month suspension of deep-sea drilling while new regulations are established in the light of a new assessment of risks and measures are agreed to ensure regulations are enforced. Now perhaps all those involved can get on with what needs to be done. BP will decide if suspending its dividend is more or less helpful to meeting its cash flow liabilities to the damages fund. It might, or might not be. Personally I hope the dividend will be paid, not that I hold any shares myself.

The only thing wrong with the above announcement by Obama is the 6-month moratorium on deep-sea wells. That will bring a commercial shutdown to the businesses including fishing that is dependent on the local oil business, as well as putting the oil-men out of work. 6 months is too long.

JUNE 16th 2010
I agree with David Ignatius. Other commentators did not allow Obama much slack or appear to feel he had taken charge. I disagree, I think he is getting his head around the problem - which is BP in some respects if it comes to any short-cuts they may have taken in a well that they knew was on the limit and needed every safety precaution possible - and in other respects his own countrymen and women. Both of the aforementioned are also the only assets he has to deal with the problem. So, they both need looking after, and told how to behave. In a democracy, his countrymen have the choice of who tells them how to behave, so they are free to get it wrong.

David Ignatius in the Washington Post is one of the few to see much to welcome in the president's remarks:

"Obama was right to say that we are drilling a mile deep in the gulf because we are exhausting, with our voracious energy appetite, safer sources on land or in shallow water. And he was especially right to say that the nightmare of the Gulf oil spill won't end until we find alternatives to our economic dependence on fossil fuels...I liked him better Tuesday night than I have in a while - tired, beat-up politically, but not playing to the crowd with easy put-downs of BP CEO Tony Hayward or profit-mongering Big Oil. There's a glimmer of real leadership there, but not yet the bright beam."

BP is to put £13.5 billion into the Compensation Fund. That should be no problem for them, there is no need to put it all in at once or twice as fast as it can be spent, though the first payment of £5 billion can go in right now. It will be interesting to see how much prestige money goes on administration fees which no doubt the administrators will be happy to claim, as well as on considerable administration costs which will involve a great deal of work. Quis custodiet....etc. We are told these guys are so clever.

BP on their part have offered to set up an additional $100,000,000 fund to help those put out of work in the gulf region as result of the leak, and is waving the dividend to shareholders. That is for them to judge and clearly they feel this gesture is needed, i.e. that some shareholders should pay a penalty. Complex logic here. Shareholders to blame for board's failings? Sharing the pain of victims?

JUNE 17th 2010
Here's a good update article on what happens next. Amongst other actions BP is going to sell $10 billion of it's $250 billion+ assets 'as part of the deal'. I wonder what that means, if it means anything more than a good idea, at a time when such assets are at a high value, to raise cash.

6:15pm BST
We have now heard quite a lot of the Congressional grilling of Tony Hayward, and I have to say it has been powerful but very fair. It may be that some of the introductory speeches were a bit over the top, but that remains to be seen. As far as the questions put to Hayward, who gives his testimony under oath, they were very much to the point and all need answers. Some of these he was able to give but, on the details of the accident and its causes, he was not prepared to prejudge the results of the ongoing enquiry. It is clear that although as CEO for the last three years he had focused on safety and change many procedures and personnel, he was not either personally involved in or even aware of the decisions taken on the drilling of this well.

This brings me back to the criticism I made of the previous CEO and Chairman of BP - the top of this huge company that drills hundreds of wells every year relies on the safety and policy directives issued at the top being followed right down the the pyramid. Decisions take at the drilling site in this case were the outcome of meetings on the site between the staff of BP, TransOcean and Haliburton. Plans were approved by the Minerals Management Service of the US Government.

Much has been made in the questioning of time and money allegedly saved by BP by making certain decisions than in hindsight appear to have compromised safety. However, the money saved was derisory from BP's point of view, Can it be that the money saved made was far more important to some individuals in the subcontractors who had clauses in their contracts than it was to BP?  Is the Hayward the right man to answer these questions? He seems to have had very little to do with this well before it blew up. Are the people who could really answer these questions still alive? Congress already has the answers he can give, namely that BP will cap the well and stop the leak, clean up the mess and pay billions in compensation; but this session is trying to get answers about what happened and why, and only those who were present at all the stages of planning and operations can give those answers. Hayward was present at NONE, nor was he informed about them.

The session will resume later today.

11:00pm BST
The questioning got tougher as time went on.

On the matter on which I originally castigated BP - the lack of a plan to put into operation immediately in the event of a blowout and a total failure of the blowout prevention mechanism on a well this deep - we learned that every oil company was in the same situation. The plans they had were all identical and inadequate. This was known to them all and to the US Government's Minerals Management Service. It was therefore a risk accepted (no longer now) as a matter of national policy until dependence on deep sea oil exploration ended. Bear in mind this well was exploratory and the operation in hand was the closing of the well for future use as and when required. However, the lack of a plan, which I found reprehensible in the circumstances, cannot be attributed to a failure on BP's part. They were taking part in a government approved exploration programme with known risks, accepted by both Republicans and Democrats in so far as they are unmoved by the need to migrate to a new energy policy.

On the operation of the exploration and the capping of the well, however, there are questions that BP needs to answer.

1. The Blowout Preventer being used had been given an added modification - a 'Test Ram' if I heard correctly - at BP's specific request. In one reading of the facts this marginally affected the 'risk profile' of the mechanism. It is not clear if this actually made it any more likely to fail in practice, though this was assumed by the inquisitor. It may for all we know at this stage have been a sensible addition enhancing safety, regardless of the 'risk profile'.This therefore has to be clarified, as do the possible 'failure modes' of the device which were listed.

2. Tony Hayward quite rightly held that the people to take the decisions on all technical matters involved in the drilling of the well were the expert crew from BP, Haliburton and TransOcean who were on the rig and had the knowledge and experience required. Members of Congress seemed surprised that neither the CEO or those directly responsible to him were involved in these decisions. Hayward himself was not even aware the operations before before the accident but had been informed when they struck oil. Normally I would support Hayward's position, an airline pilot would not call on the CEO of an airline or any of his minions to give advice on the operation of a flight in progress.

In September 2009, the same rig, Deepwater Horizon, had successfully drilled the deepest oil well in history at a vertical depth of 35,050 ft (10,680 m) and measured depth of 35,055 ft (10,685 m). It is not a given that the expert and experienced crew on the rig, when it moved to the Macondo Prospect in February 2010, would ask for special instructions or, when decisions had to be made, would call the CEO for advice.

However, in view of the known lack of a plan to deal with an unstoppable blowout, a fact that should have been at the forefront of the CEO's thinking and right in the centre of the area of management he, not the men on the rig, should be responsible for, he should have set up a procedure to ensure that someone who reported to him regularly was in the loop at rig level and aware of any unusual difficulties. There were some unusual occurrences in this case and if, as he maintains, he was determined to make BP's safety record come up to the highest standards, he should have appointed the right people to advise him. He is sure he had the right people on the rig to manage the drilling and until it is shown they made the wrong decisions he stands by those decisions. The investigations now in course will enable us, we hope, to reach conclusions on this and he has said that if there was any evidence of cost-cutting to the detriment of safety he will take action.

The opinion of the media is that the Congressional interrogation was a PR disaster for Hayward and BP. Well, if the media think that, then it was. All I saw, with very few noble exceptions, was a lot of politicians hoping their constituents were watching them grandstanding. They claimed they were trying to get at the facts, but they will have to wait for those. At the moment, we do not know if there are any actions that could have been taken at the time, on the rig, more likely to avoid a blowout. If there were not, there may need to be some changes more than those suggested by Exxon and others that 'they would not have done it that way'.

JUNE 18th 2010
In a paradoxical twist, one member of the congressional examiners apologized to Hayward for what he called a 'shakedown' with respect to the setting up of the $20 billion compensation fund. Another member had referred to it as a 'slush fund'. But Hayward and BP have made it clear they are not acting under duress in any way. They expect to pay for the damage and hope to be allowed to do so by continuing their worldwide operations. The allegation and the apology have subsequently been withdrawn.

JUNE 20th 2010
Rahm Emanuel, White House Chief of Staff, is of the opinion that Tony Hayward is not allowed one or two days off, the first in many weeks since the Deepwater Horizon exploded, too see his family and his yacht in the Isle of Wight. I can't see the logic in this. He has just handed over management of the cleanup, and the proper management of anyone's mental capabilities is best served by the occasional break. The only bad PR that can arise is if someone wishes deliberately to cause harm by implying it is bad behaviour. Rahm Emmanuel's own PR rating, and usefulness, goes down sharply in the estimation of most people. Another conceited American with an overblown idea of his own persona and opinions.

JUNE 22nd 2010
BP To Donate Net Revenue From MC252 Well Leak To National Fish and Wildlife Foundatione - 22 June 2010. Today BP announced that it will donate the net revenue it receives from the sale of oil recovered from the MC252 spill to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).

Does that mean the oil recovered during the crisis while it leaks, or also all future oil from that well when it is reopened some time in the future under proprt control? If it is the latter, the National Fish and Wildlife foundation will bless the day Deepwater Horizon exploded.

I am still trying to find out what 'testing' the blowout preventer, which Transocean say they did shortly before it failed, really means. What is a 'test ram', did the fitting of it really make failure more likely or not?

I am in favour of lifting the ban on drilling in the gulf immediately providing some increased safety standards are set with the knowledge gained from the Deepwater Horizon accident and others worldwide. It will be costly and more bureaucratic and complex but all the more reason to get on with it.

We should not forget that in the1980s BP was an early supporter of taking serious measures to research and deal with the threats of climate change, when virtually the whole of the US was in denial.

JUNE 24th 2010
NEW ORLEANS – Earlier this month, BP boldly predicted the oil gushing from the bottom of the sea would be reduced to a "relative trickle" within days, and President Barack Obama told the nation last week that as much as 90 percent would soon be captured. But those goals seemed wildly optimistic Thursday after yet another setback a mile underwater.
That's all we need with a potential hurricane forming out to the east....

JULY 8th
A recent update on progress

JULY 12th 2010
Some better news...a new cap on the well, and a new tanker to collect the oil should see all the escaping pollutant being captured before too long.
BP shares rose today, Monday, on the news

Latest reports:

Update on Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill - 12 July: Installation of the sealing cap is proceeding as planned. The Discoverer Enterprise removed the LMRP cap at approximately 12:40 PM CDT on Saturday, July 10.

Sealing Cap and Helix Producer Containment Update with Kent Wells - 10 July: Kent Wells provides a technical update on the installation sequence of the new sealing cap and briefly discusses the status of the Helix Producer containment option and relief well progress.

JULY 13th 2010

JULY 14th 2010
Today, the planned test and closure of the newly fitted cap has been put on hold. US Government appointed experts have decided the risk of the rise in pressure, even with the current piped exits to the tankers in place to capture the proportion of oil already being recuperated daily, is not neglible. To this end seismic readings are being taken in an attempt to seek and analyse any weakness in the well lining. If closing the well apart from the existing controlled  exits should cause ruptures below the sea-bed, the situation could be yet more difficult.

I think this caution is justified. Personally I would try to set up more controlled exits using the new capping attachment if there is any doubt and treat the well as an unstoppable source until the new relief wells have been finished to tap in well down the vertical extent of the path to the oil bed. However, if BP and the US experts can come to any agreement on the next steps and the timing, that is what we must go with. A good debate should lead to a resolution.

11:30pm BST - They are going ahead with the test with precautions. Good decision.

JULY 14th 2010
A leak has been discovered near the new cap. This will have to be repaired before further closing of the flow.
meantime here are some more details

JULY 15th 2010
The leak has been checked and the pressure test is going ahead. Meantime this is the most absurd thing to come out of half-witted Americans yet:
Good grief, Charlie Brown. Yeah, sure, England's the enemy (according some US politicians speaking on TV last night) - and all the time you thought it was al Qaida.
Mind you, our patience is not completely limitless, but that will not be put to the test. Nature's patience is not completely limitless. Success has always been conditional on this planet. Don't get me wrong, I still believe in sane Americans.

JULY 16 - See yesterday and the latest accusation: that BP is responsible for getting the Lockerbie Bomber out of jail. Our Yorkshire windbag William Hague has just agreed with Hilary Clinton that the release of Al Magrahi was 'a mistake'. If by that he means based on a medical error, that is possible. If he means it was a wrong decision on other grounds, not at all. It was obvious a long time ago that Megrahi was just a pawn in the process, with nothing significant to do with either the planning or the execution. But neither that, nor political pressure had anything to do with the decision to send him home to die. I recommend Clinton listen carefully the Scots Attorney General's decision, again. It was done on humanitarian grounds, specifically in rebuttal of the inhuman action of deliberately bringing down a civil airliner. The US is, as we know, still a very Old Testament country. It was good to know Scotland has moved on.

JULY 17th 2010
So far so good on the well cap. However it would seem the pressure built up is slightly less than was expected. We wait to be told if this is a good or bad result. If it is not enough to pump oil through the pipes going to the waiting tankers, but also not an indication of oil escaping from leaks lower down below the sea-bed, it could mean BP has the best of both worlds, with no need to keep tankers on standby through the hurricane season, and certainly not after the relief wells have been driven and capped with secure and operable means to take oil off in the future after the original well has been safely stoppered with concrete. At leasthat is my off-the-cuff guesswork as to what is going on.

JULY 18th 2010
Here is a decent explanation of the current situation, though I wish commentators and participants could stop thinking about anything except the best ecological outcome and the most stable outcome in the long term compatible with that.

JULY 19th 2010
The problem in more detail...

But....10:30pm BST it seems the methane detected is not very near or related to the well. That's better news. The cap may be OK left in place.

JULY 27th 2010
27 July 2010 Last updated at 15:50
BP to emerge 'smaller and wiser'

JULY 31 2010
Preparing to seal the well

AUGUST 4th 2010

Declaring it a milestone, BP PLC said mud that was forced down the well was holding back the flow of crude and it was in a "static condition."

Also, White House energy adviser Carol Browner said on morning TV talk shows that a new assessment found that about 75 percent of the oil has either been captured, burned off, evaporated or broken down in the Gulf.

That now leaves the perhaps tricky job of joining the relief wells to the low part of the original shaft and blocking it definitively with cement, and ensuring that the remaining 25% of the escaped oil is cleaned off beaches, material and vegetation or broken down by bacteria.

AUGUST 6th 2020
Not the end, but the beginning of the end, leaving a few unknowns about the effects of the recent diet on fish and microorganisms.

AUGUST 17th 2010
What lies beneath?

August 19th 2010
Contrary to the reports and speculation that a huge quantity of oil remmains under the water in a large plume at depth, it now appears that this represents a small fraction of the oil that escaped. Remarkably, most of the oil has indeed broken down and disappeared. What is left is breaking down more slowly but it also appears that the toxins are in very low concentration. No cause for complacency, and everything must be done to avoid damage, but there is reason to be hopeful that this is really better news.

SEPTEMBER 8th 2010
The BP report on the causes for the blowout is published today.
The analysis and recommendations may be of help to the industry as a whole. The contents of the report is roughly as expected but there are details of actual behaviour on the rig that are not fully covered. Most of the data in the report is not disputed between the parties other than one: that the design was faulty, and that is a matter of opinion. The operators and contractors claim they just did as asked. But the data itself puts this in doubt. These are the key points when it comes to attributing blame:

1. Haliburton did a substandard cement job which of itself caused the start of the blowout. Had they done it properly, this blowout would never have happened.
2. Transocean, Haliburton and BP employees do not appear to have reacted for 40 minutes to pressure indications which, if acted upon would have enabled manual and probably successful actions to operate the blowout prevention device.
3. It is possible that the combination of the above two failures allowed debris to interfere with the automatic function of the blowout prevention device.

Conclusion: there is a share of responsibility here. The opinion of Haliburton and Transocean that the design was faulty does not look like a runner when it comes to absolving them of two thirds of the responsibility and maybe very much more, even if it was true, which it very probably isn't. That is unless they can prove that BP was responsible also for all their bad decisions and failures, a line which they now appear to be taking. I don't find that likely, but hey, let's try to find out.

There is of course the argument that BP is wholly responsible in any case as it is the company that chose the contractors and carries the can. That overlooks a fact of life: that we subcontract to experts who are more qualified in important areas than we are ourselves. I can choose and accountant and a doctor and a solicitor but that does not make me responsible for all their mistakes in operations on my behalf unless they were acting on my explicit instructions and against established practices which they knew to be legal standards. Regardless of bad intentions or gross negligence, which are unlikely in this case, back-seat drivers lacking expertise can cause accidents. No contracted operator can blame the employer unless they can show good practice was overruled, and in that case they need to explain why they went along. BP immediately accepted responsibility for dealing with this mess, it will share any proper responsibility for its cause, and so should everyone else. Most important, BP alone is in a position to fund compensation and will and can do so unless those unwilling to take their proper share of blame care to see it spent on lawyers instead.

The contractors fight back:

TransOcean: "This is a self-serving report that attempts to conceal the critical factor that set the stage for the Macondo (well) incident: BP's fatally flawed well design," the Swiss-based group said in a statement.

Halliburton also hit back at the 193-page report.

"As we continue to review BP's internal report published earlier today, we have noticed a number of substantial omissions and inaccuracies in the document," it said.

"Halliburton remains confident that all the work it performed with respect to the Macondo well was completed in accordance with BP's specifications for its well construction plan and instructions, and that it is fully indemnified under its contract for any of the allegations contained in the report."

NOVEMBER 9th 2010
BP looks like coming out of this story quite well. It is back in profit. Haliburton is taking the heat for the accident.

A US presidential commission investigating the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster has found no evidence to support charges that BP and its rig partners put profits ahead of safety.The commission in its preliminary report into the tragedy agreed with about 90pc of BP's own findings but accused the oil giant of taking unnecessary risks in its attempts to halt the flow of oil from the damaged well.

DECEMBER 17th 2010
Oh that's all we needed. The US Government has decided to SUE all the companies involved in the Macondo blowout. How utterly childish. If they want to get the maximum compensation for the people who deserve it, this is so not the way to do it. They need strong companies to divvy up the cash, as much and as long as is needed, by showing what is needed and why. No doubt they think that this will stop the buck-passing and speed up the money - I seriously doubt that. A lawyers' bonanza and grandstanding for political bores.