WASHINGTON/HOUSTON - Poor management and critical mistakes by BP and its contractors led to the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history, according to the final report of the largest U.S. government probe into last year's massive Gulf oil spill.
Investigators from the U.S. Coast Guard and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management scattered blame for the accident on the companies involved while also saying stronger regulations could have helped prevent the catastrophe.
This final report has been heavily anticipated by investors eager for clues on possible legal ramifications BP and its partners may face from the drilling disaster.
BP stock was up $1.04 to $37.94 in New York shortly after release of the report.
In the days leading up to the accident, BP made a series of decisions that complicated cementing operations and may have contributed to the ultimate failure of the cement on the well, the investigators found.
BP failed to communicate these decisions and the "increasing operational risks" to Transocean, the contractor that owned and operated the Deepwater Horizon rig, according to the report.
"As a result, BP and Transocean personnel onboard the Deepwater Horizon ... did not fully identify and evaluate the risks inherent in the operations that were being conducted at Macondo," the report said.
Transocean workers missed an opportunity to address the cement problems when they misinterpreted a critical test of the well's cement barriers.
Halliburton was responsible for cementing on the Macondo well.
Halliburton, Transocean and Cameron, the designer of the well's blowout preventer, were not immediately available for comment.
BP declined to comment, saying it had yet to review the report.
Halliburton shares fell 1.6 percent to $38.84 per share.
ECHOES OTHER PROBES
Last year's explosion on the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 workers and spewed more than 4 million barrels of oil from the Macondo well into the sea.
The drilling disaster spurred a slew of investigations, lawsuits and regulatory reforms.
The Justice Department has already sued the well's owners, BP, Anadarko Petroleum Corp and Mitsui Co Ltd, as well as Transocean.
More charges could be brought, however, and the findings from federal investigators could provide fodder for lawsuits that BP and its contractors have filed blaming each other for the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
The latest federal report echoes other official investigations of the spill, which have blamed the catastrophe on a series of mistakes made by BP and its partners.
Probes conducted by a presidential commission and the National Academies also pointed to cementing problems and the misreading of key indicators as major factors in the spill.
In addition to the legal impacts of the federal report, the team's investigation may lead to further changes in the regulatory landscape for offshore drilling.
Following the Gulf spill, the government imposed a raft of new rules aimed at preventing another disaster and began a complete reorganization of the scandal-prone offshore drilling agency, which was then known as the Minerals Management Service.
While regulations in place at the time of the spill did not cause the disaster, "stronger and more comprehensive federal regulations might have reduced the likelihood of the Macondo blowout," the federal investigators said.
The report said regulations could be strengthened in areas involving cementing procedures and inspection of offshore drilling operations, but said many recommended changes have already been implemented by the BOEM.
Michael Bromwich, the head of the BOEM, said the team's findings would help guide future regulatory efforts for his agency. (Additional reporting by Matthew Daily, Kristen Hays, Tom Bergin and Anna Driver; Editing by Russell Blinch and Jim Marshall)
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