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Shell criticises BP oil spill report

Oct 13 2010 07:02 Reuters

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London - The chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell Plc has criticized the investigation that rival BP Plc conducted into the causes of its Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and the design BP chose for its blown out well.

Peter Voser told the Oil and Money conference in London on Tuesday that to correctly investigate the accident one had to examine the thinking behind the particular well design BP used - something BP's report did not consider.

The Macondo well design included a number of cheaper options, including the use of a single tube from the surface to the reservoir, rather than two overlapping tubes, and US lawmakers said these choices reflected a tendency on BP's part to put profits before safety.

"Shell clearly would have drilled this well in a different way and would have had more options to prevent the accident," Voser said, referring to Shell's preference to include more barriers to hydrocarbon leaks in its well designs.

The chief executive of driller Noble Corp, who was speaking at the same conference, also challenged BP's claim that the blowout preventer (BOP) on the rig failed, and alleged that the failure to correctly read the well was the real cause of the accident.

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in April after an uncontrolled surge of oil and gas went up the well. The sinking of the rig led to the worst oil spill in United States history.

BP has blamed the failure of the BOP, a stack of valves designed to cut off well flows in the event of a high-pressure surge, and human errors, largely on the part of its contractors, for the rig blast.

But Noble's chief executive David Williams said the cause of the blast was not the BOP.

"It was caused by a failure of the individuals involved to identify what the well was telling them," he told the conference, referring to the fact that rig staff did not shut in the well despite rising pressure and other warning signs.

He said the BOP may not have even failed at all, given speculation that pieces of piping were found inside the device. If this came from dislodged piping in the well, it could also call BP's well design into question.
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