BP Whistle-Blower Seeks Shutdown of Atlantis in Gulf of Mexico

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

BP Plc.’s Atlantis platform, its second-largest oil producer in the Gulf of Mexico, should be shut down until it’s proven to comply with U.S. safety and environmental laws, a lawyer for a whistle-blower told a judge.

BP misled U.S. offshore regulators to win operating permits for its Atlantis platform, about 150 miles (240 kilometers) south of New Orleans, according to the whistle-blower. The facility produced an average of 60,000 barrels of oil daily last year and is capable of producing as much as 200,000 barrels a day, according to data on London-based BP’s website.

“Atlantis is presently not fit for service under normal engineering standards,” David Perry, a lawyer for former BP contractor Kenneth Abbott, said at a hearing in federal court in Houston. “We ask the court to take action to oversee remediation to make it fit for service.”

Abbott, who sued BP on behalf of the U.S. government in 2009, has asked U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes to move quickly to halt production and appoint a special master to oversee measures to ensure that the platform is brought into compliance. Abbott also seeks $7.8 billion from BP, which he estimates is the value of oil and gas BP has pumped through Atlantis since the facility came online in 2007.

Perry told Hughes that there’s a specific pressure-relief valve “protecting a 16-inch pipeline,” connecting Atlantis to shore, and “that is undersized by a factor of 20 to 1.” A failure in that valve “could cause catastrophe at any time,” Perry said.

Abbott, who worked as an engineering documentation supervisor on Atlantis, testified before the U.S. Congress in June, 2010, that almost 90 percent of the facility’s design and construction drawings weren’t approved by licensed professional engineers, as required by regulators. BP lied to regulators about its engineering certifications to obtain operating permits for the platform, Abbott’s lawyers said in a March 15 filing.

“Immediate court action is needed to remedy unsafe conditions on Atlantis,” attorney Mikal Watts said in the filing. “These unsafe conditions are a direct result of shoddy engineering by unlicensed personnel and the absence of reliable drawings which match the ‘as-built’ construction of the facility.”

BP said in its own court filings that Atlantis is safe and that Abbott’s complaints were dismissed by federal regulators, who investigated the issue after the 2010 blowout of BP’s Macondo well, drilled by the Deepwater Horizon. Atlantis is located about 100 miles south of where the Deepwater Horizon disaster occurred.

“Based on years of intensively regulating Atlantis, the Department of Interior has affirmatively determined that Atlantis is safe, that BP is in compliance, and that there is no basis to shut it in,” Otway Denny, BP’s lawyer, said in a January court filing. “The court should not substitute its judgment for the judgment of DOI’s engineers, inspectors and regulatory experts.”

In March, 2011, the U.S. Interior Department said that BP’s deficiencies in documentation for the platform posed no “serious” safety risks, following its investigation of Abbott’s allegations.

“Although we found significant problems with the way BP labeled and maintained its engineering drawings and related documents, we found the most serious allegations to be without merit, including the suggestion that a lack of adequate documentation created a serious safety risk” on the platform, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement said in an e-mailed statement March 4, 2011.

Abbott’s lawyers asked Hughes to exclude the agency’s investigative report, which, they said in court papers, was “obtained by fraud.”

The Interior Department regulator assigned to lead the Atlantis investigation “was appointed to investigate his own conduct, and he is now BP’s witness to the safety of Atlantis,” according to the March 15 filing.

Atlantis has already experienced multiple well-control lapses, during which subsea well valves opened and closed on their own, and platform operators temporarily lost the ability to control some wells, Abbott said in a February court filing. Abbott accused BP of hiding this information from Interior Department regulators to keep production flowing from Atlantis.

 “We fundamentally disagree with plaintiffs’ claims in this lawsuit,” Daren Beaudo, a BP spokesman, said in a March 15 e- mail. “The Department of Interior conducted a thorough investigation of Mr. Abbott’s lawsuit allegations and concluded that Mr. Abbott’s allegations are unfounded and that the Atlantis platform is safe and should continue to be operated by BP.”

Abbott’s lawyers have told Hughes he shouldn’t take BP’s word that Atlantis is safe, given the company’s track record, which includes the Deepwater Horizon blast, which sparked the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. They also called Hughes’s attention to BP’s largest Gulf oil platform, Thunder Horse, which almost sank in 2005, after an improperly installed valve allowed hurricane storm water to pour into the floating platform’s ballast tanks, instead of out.

“Thunder Horse was designed and fabricated by the same Korean shipbuilding firm as Atlantis, a firm BP admits does not employ registered professional engineers,” Watts said in court papers.

The case is U.S ex rel. Abbott v. BP Exploration and Production Inc., 4:09-cv-01193, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston). (Bloomberg)
 

Maritime Today


The Maritime Industry's original and most viewed E-News Service

Maritime Reporter May 2016 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

People & Company News

DP World to Manage Somaliland Port for 30 Years

DP World has reached an agreement to manage the Berbera port in Somaliland, which would allow it to become a major hub for goods to transit to and from the Horn of Africa,

Abu Dhabi Ports Try to Lure Chinese Businessmen

Abu Dhabi Ports - the master developer, operator and manager of ports and Khalifa Industrial Zone in the Emirate - presented the integrated offerings of Khalifa

NASSCO Lays Keel for Jones Act Tanker Liberty

U.S. shipbuilder General Dynamics NASSCO hosted a keel laying ceremony on Thursday, May 26 for the Liberty, one of three new ECO Class Jones Act tankers under a

Legal

Seized Hanjin Shipping Vessel Resumes Operation in South Africa

Hanjin Paradip resume  its sailing from South Africa as talks continue with owner over unpaid charter fees. The ship had been detained in Richards Bay, South Africa

Korean Shipbuilder Could Be Liquidated

South Korea's STX Offshore & Shipbuilding Co. has filed for receivership, following massive losses that have mounted up over the past two years, says a report in the WSJ.

Portugal PM Warns Lisbon Dock Workers to End Strike

Portugal's prime minister warned Lisbon dock workers on Friday that his patience was running out after a strike that has lasted a month, paralysing the city's ports.

Offshore

Mermaid Maritime Bags Subsea Contracts, Delays Newbuilding

Thailand’s Mermaid Maritime said it has been awarded a number of subsea contracts in the Middle East with a total worth of $11million.   It has also reached

Hercules Offshore Filing for Bankruptcy Again

Hercules Offshore Inc said it planned to file for prepackaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy, just six months after the rig contractor emerged from bankruptcy protection.

DONG Energy Listing to Value Group at up to $16 Bln

DONG Energy's has set a potential $16 billion price tag on its stock market debut, giving investors a chance to buy into the growth in offshore wind power, but

Energy

Strike In France: Implications for Tanker Demand

After the oil industry suffered from a severe drought in Venezuela, forest fires in Canada and rebel attacks on oil installations in Nigeria, it is now facing

Floating Storage Flattens Fortunes of $50 Crude

The prices of WTI and Brent crude briefly rose above $50/bbl during intraday trading on Thursday, the highest level seen since the end of July 2015, giving traders a brief moment of optimism,

GloMEEP Project Forges Ahead with Train-the-Trainer Workshop

A global Train-the-Trainer workshop on energy efficiency has been delivered in China (23-27 May), preparing the personnel needed to cascade knowledge on energy

News

Seized Hanjin Shipping Vessel Resumes Operation in South Africa

Hanjin Paradip resume  its sailing from South Africa as talks continue with owner over unpaid charter fees. The ship had been detained in Richards Bay, South Africa

Deployment: The Transpacific Trade Steps Up To The Plate

In 2015, it was the Asia-Europe route which was the focus of changing deployment trends, says Clarksons Research.   This year, it is the Transpacific trade which

US Navy Updated Zika Virus Infection Guidance

Navy Medicine released updated Zika Virus Infection guidance in NAVADMIN 121/16, May 26, communicating current information, travel precautions, and risk reduction

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Contracts Maritime Security Naval Architecture Navigation Offshore Oil Pipelines Pod Propulsion Port Authority Ship Simulators
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.1639 sec (6 req/sec)