Major Safety Changes Urged for the Offshore-Drilling Industry

by Greg Pollowitz


The oil and gas industry needs a “major transformation” in its approach to safety to avoid another big offshore-drilling disaster, a leader of the presidential panel investigating the BP PLC accident plans to tell a gathering of industry officials Wednesday.

William K. Reilly, co-chairman of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, also plans to say that BP and two other companies involved with the doomed Macondo well — Halliburton Co. and Transocean Ltd. — made “breathtakingly inept and largely preventable” missteps, according to a copy of his prepared remarks viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

His speech also calls for improvements in the training and expertise of federal regulators, who “failed us miserably” in their oversight of offshore drilling before the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig that left 11 workers dead and triggered the worst offshore spill in U.S. history.

But the bulk of Mr. Reilly’s remarks — to be delivered in New Orleans at a conference of attorneys for U.S. oil and gas companies — focuses on the industry, and what Mr. Reilly says is the absence of “a shared industry culture that puts a premium on safety and risk management.”

“The interest group that could most threaten the future viability of offshore drilling is the oil and gas industry itself,” Mr. Reilly says in the speech. “There has to be a recognition that the industry has not made safety a high enough priority. We need a major transformation in the oil and gas industry’s understanding of what it means to put a priority on creating a safety culture. This is an industrywide challenge that can’t simply be laid at the feet of a few rogue players.”

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