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BP, government praised for inventive response to oil spill

But a presidential panel also sharply criticizes the company, industry and federal agencies for being unprepared for an environmental emergency in the Gulf of Mexico.

November 22, 2010|By Neela Banerjee

Reporting from Washington — Facing the worst offshore oil disaster in American history, BP rapidly developed and carried out new technologies to contain the damage, and government watchdogs established "effective oversight," according to a report issued Monday by the presidential panel investigating the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

But the rare praise for the way they responded after disaster struck was coupled with scathing indictments of how terribly unprepared the federal government, BP and the oil industry were for a deep-sea oil well blowout.

Despite the fact that oil companies have been drilling for years in the Gulf of Mexico and the potential for problems was widely recognized, those involved were essentially caught flat-footed when the BP platform exploded and sank.

"There were many success stories in the effort to control the Macondo well, including, but not limited to, the ultimate successes of capping and killing it," the report said. "And the speed with which government scientists, with little background in deep-sea petroleum engineering, established meaningful oversight was truly impressive.

"These remarkable efforts were necessary, however, because of a lack of advance preparation by industry and government," investigators said.

The report, "Stopping the Spill: The Five-Month Effort to Kill the Macondo Well," is based on preliminary findings by the panel's staff.

The staff suggested that the president's panel recommend that oil companies develop detailed plans on how to stop deep-water blowouts and that the government review those plans.

The draft report also called for the government to beef up its expertise in petroleum engineering in order to better manage any future oil disasters, and to find ways to give a fast, accurate estimate of the amount of oil flowing from a blowout, which took weeks to nail down during the Deepwater Horizon spill.

The report was issued in tandem with another working paper on the spill that covered response and cleanup technology used while oil was still pouring from the crippled well. That report found that industry and the government had invested little in oil spill response and containment over the years.

"As a result, cleanup technology used during the Deepwater Horizon spill was dated and inadequate," according to the draft report "Response/Cleanup Technology Research & Development and the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill."

nbanerjee@tribune.com

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