Long-Awaited Information from BP Suggests Company Still Lacks Critical Safety Documentation for BP Atlantis
Washington, D.C. – In light of new information revealing that regulators lacked critical engineer-certified documents for BP’s Atlantis platform when the facility started operation almost three years ago, the national consumer organization Food & Water Watch is challenging the investigation of the facility by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), saying that it should at least interview Kenneth Abbott, the whistleblower who brought these safety problems to light in March of 2009.
In documents recently received by Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Jim Costa’s (D-CA) offices in an undated letter from BOEMRE Director Michael R. Bromwich, the agency suggests it did not have on file any document from BP certifying that the design of Atlantis had been approved by engineers before the platform began operation in October 2007. In his letter to Grijalva, Bromwich writes, “I have enclosed a full un-redacted copy of the certification statement BP provided with its platform approval application,” as required. However, the certification statement comes in the form of a letter from BP dated August 10, 2010.
“Surely, BOEMRE is ducking its responsibilities to investigate BP Atlantis,” says Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. “Unless BP was applying for approval in August 2010 to construct one of the world’s largest deepwater platforms that began operation three years ago, the fact that BOEMRE just sent this on to Congress as if it were legitimate shows that the agency is scrambling to cover for BP and keep this unsafe rig in operation.”
Additionally, Reps. Grijalva and Costa had requested an electronic version of the database for Atlantis that indicates completion status of its engineering documents. In response, Bromwich writes, “The database is not reliant in determining BP’s compliance with current BOEMRE regulations governing certification and maintenance of engineering documents. As a result, we are not currently planning to acquire a copy of this database.” Food & Water Watch’s own analysis indicates that this database is absolutely vital for determining the status of BP Atlantis’s engineering documents, given the lack of drawings that BP has turned over.
The agency did provide the Congressmen with “two CDs containing electronic versions of the as-built structural and general arrangement drawings for BP Atlantis”. But BP failed to account for the majority of the facility’s final, engineer-approved drawings, handing over only approximately 412 of the more than 7,000 that Abbott has attested are incomplete. Further, the list of subsea Piping & Instrumentation Diagrams – essentially the operating manual for the facility – indicates that none were complete and final when the facility commenced production. And while 570 documents should exist for the facility’s “trees,” BP only provided 10, and none of them were final. For producing facilities such as Atlantis, “trees” serve the same function as the blow-out preventers for drilling facilities such as BP’s Deepwater Horizon.
“BOEMRE’s response to Congress’s request for certified engineering documents for Atlantis raises serious questions about the facility’s safety,” said Mike Sawyer, an engineer with Apex Safety Consultants. “Imminent danger of a catastrophic accident aboard Atlantis exists, and it should be shut down until adequate safety verifications are made.”
Bromwich also indicated in his letter that the final report of BOEMRE’s investigation into Atlantis will be released this month. An earlier letter to Grijalva indicated that the analysis would be completed by this Friday. The agency has never interviewed Abbott about his concerns over the database, although Abbott was interviewed extensively by Congress during his testimony this summer after the Deepwater Horizon explosion.
“The agency is really poking its finger in the eye of oversight by refusing to interview the whistleblower who uncovered these claims,” continued Hauter. “Their report will be at best incomplete and at worst a sham unless they interview him before its release.”
Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch: (202) 683.2500, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org.