BP executive defends company's report on causes of deadly rig explosion, Gulf oil spill

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The BP executive who led the company's probe of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion defended the contents of his team's report on the disaster in his testimony Monday for a trial over the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

A lawyer for rig owner Transocean Ltd. asked the BP executive, Mark Bly, why the report doesn't mention a call from BP rig supervisor Donald Vidrine to an onshore engineer, Mark Hafle, less than an hour before the blast killed 11 workers and triggered the nation's worst offshore oil spill.

Notes from interviews by BP investigators show they knew about a telephone call in which Hafle and Vidrine discussed the results of a crucial safety test that Vidrine allegedly misinterpreted. Hafle told the BP investigators he had warned Vidrine that the results indicated the test may not have been properly lined up.

But BP's September 2010 report says its investigators found no evidence that the Transocean rig crew or BP rig supervisors consulted anyone "outside their team" about the test results.

Transocean attorney Brad Brian pressed Bly to explain that apparent discrepancy. Bly described the call as an "after-the-fact conversation" and said the details of their discussion weren't completely clear. Bly also insisted his team's report covered the test results "pretty comprehensively."

Brian asked Bly why none of his handwritten notes include any mention of his team's interviews with Hafle.

"Did you just decide not to write it down, sir?" Brian asked.

"I don't recall," said Bly, whose testimony started last Wednesday.

Vidrine and fellow BP well site leader Robert Kaluza were indicted last year on manslaughter charges stemming from the workers' deaths and await a separate trial. Their indictment accuses them of disregarding abnormally high pressure readings that should have been glaring indications of trouble just before the April 20, 2010, blowout of BP's Macondo well.

The so-called "Bly report" focused on equipment failures and mistakes that rig workers made. Brian, noting that the Macondo drilling project was over budget and behind schedule, asked Bly why his investigation didn't explore whether the blowout resulted from any decisions that BP made on shore that were designed to save time and money.

"Did you think it was relevant to your investigation whether the people on the shore were making decisions that increased risk in order to save money?" Brian asked.

Bly, who was BP's global head of safety before recently announcing his retirement from the London-based oil giant, said BP investigators focused on "engineering trade-offs" and "risk decisions" instead of exploring the costs behind certain decisions.

"It was more driven by the accident we were investigating," Bly said.

The trial opened last Monday and, barring a settlement, is expected to last several months. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier is hearing testimony without a jury and could decide how much more money BP, Transocean and other companies must pay for their roles in the disaster.