Whenever there is a serious incident, such as the Deepwater Horizon/Macondo explosion and oil spill it is normal for one or more authoritative bodies to write an in-depth report. Such reports are generally very thorough and are prepared by people of high credibility and professionalism within the industry or from related industries. Typically these reports describe:

  • What happened: the sequence of actions and non-actions that led up to the event, followed by an assessment of the effectiveness of the emergency response systems.

  • How the Safety Management Systems, both technical and managerial, failed to prevent the event from occurring and/or failed to mitigate the event once it was under way; and

  • Recommendations to prevent further incidents of this type from occurring. These recommendations cover changes to regulations, developments in management systems and improvements in technology.

Finally, the reports may, on occasion, suggest a new paradigm for for managing safety in the industry covered. Examples of such paradigm shifts occurred in the 1990 (the Cullen report and Piper Alpha) and in 2007 (the Baker report and the Texas City explosion).

Of the many reports written to do with the Deepwater Horizon/Macondo (DWH) event of April 2010, four have been selected for review in this paper. In chronological order they are:

  • National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. Report to the President. January 2011.

  • BOEMRE (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement). Report Regarding the Cause of the April 20, 2010 Macondo Well Blowout. September 14, 2011.

  • Transportation Research Board. Special Report 309: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Offshore Safety and Environmental Management Systems. 2012.

  • SPE (Society of Petroleum Engineers). Summit Paper. The Human Factor, Process Safety and Culture. Eds. Patrick Hudson and John L. Thorogood. November 2012.

The third and fourth reports did not address the Deepwater Horizon event in detail. However both of them were profoundly influenced by the need to respond to this catastrophic event and provide guidance as to actions that can be taken to improve the culture of the offshore oil and gas industry.

Figure 1 shows a binder that contains a print-out of the four documents (along with copies of SEMS and the proposed SEMS II). They are printed single-sided on standard paper. The binder is 5 inches thick and weighs approximately 10 pounds, thus illustrating the scope of such reports, and the challenge that the offshore community faces in reading them and understanding their findings and recommendations.

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