The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

September 14, 2011

U.S. government prepares to release BP oil spill report

A key federal report into what caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history was being readied for release as early as Wednesday amid revelations BP made critical mistakes on the well and failed to tell its partners and the U.S. government when it realized it.

An investigation team of the U.S. Coast Guard and the agency that regulates offshore drilling held hearings over the course of a year following the April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon tragedy. The Coast Guard-Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement investigation has been among the most exhaustive.

Other investigations have faulted misreadings of key data, the failure of the blowout preventer to stop the flow of oil to the sea, and other shortcomings by executives, engineers and rig crew members.

Meanwhile, interviews and documents obtained by The Associated Press show a BP scientist identified a previously unreported deposit of flammable gas that could have played a role in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but the oil giant failed to divulge the finding to government investigators for as long as a year.

While engineering experts differ on the extent to which the two-foot-wide swath of gas-bearing sands helped cause the disaster, the finding raises the specter of further legal and financial troubles for BP. It also could raise the stakes in the multibillion-dollar court battle between the companies involved.

"This is a critical factor, where the hydrocarbons are found," Rice University engineering professor Satish Nagarajaiah said. "I think further studies are needed to determine where this exactly was and what response was initiated by BP if they knew this fact."

Two months ago, BP petrophysicist Galina Skripnikova told attorneys involved in the oil spill litigation that there appeared to be a zone of gas more than 300 feet above where BP told its contractors and regulators with the then-Minerals Management Service the shallowest zone was located.

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