WHISTLEBLOWERS ALLEGE BP OIL FRAUD ON RECORDS AND TESTS

A former contractor once employed by British Petroleum (BP), Mike Mason says that when he worked for BP in Alaska, it fudged on “blowout protector” tests. The blowout protector, if used on the oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, may have prevented the explosion which resulted in the disaster.

Another BP whistleblower alleges that the company ignored its own internal procedures and violated federal laws when it failed to maintain essential engineering and safety documents from various production projects in the Gulf of Mexico.In November 2008, the whistle blower, whose name was not released, began to question certain safety issues regarding the BP Atlantis, the largest and deepest platform of its kind in the world. In October 2007, when Atlantis began production, this individual started supervising BP’s data bases and found that the operation lacked most of the engineering-approved documents that were necessary for it to run safely, making it vulnerable to a disaster of catastrophic proportions. Ironically, the company’s internal communications expressed similar sentiments.On August 15, 2008, a member of the Atlantis subsea team indicated that the piping and instrument diagrams (P&IDs)—which are the basis of the crucial hazards analysis that the company is obliged to do when performing offshore drilling, —were incomplete. This could result in operator errors, because they rely on the accuracy of the drawings, and it violates both Process Safety Regulations and BP’s internal standards.

Later, it was revealed that 85 percent of the related P&IDs were never given engineer approval, and 95% of the sub-sea welding records for Atlantis also lacked final approval. This meant that, at any time, the platform was seriously at risk for a catastrophic event, causing extensive damage to the Gulf of Mexico’s environment and harming workers as well. Along with that the “logic drawings” related to the Atlantis system that governed the flow of oil in an emergency had not been updated.

In September 2006, BP stated that Judge Stanley Sporkin, a former federal judge, would act as an ombudsman and handle any complaints workers might have related to their operations. In March 2009, the whistle blower contacted Sporkin via email concerning the Atlantis situation. A month earlier, he was terminated abruptly, and he feels that correlates with the complaints he voiced about the missing engineering documents for Atlantis and his support of a female colleague who was being treated unfairly. He further indicates that BP had previously planned to secure the necessary documents, but balked at the $2 million expense involved.

Acting on these complaints, the Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) requested certain Atlantis-related documents from BP on two occasions, but Food & Water Watch, a public advocacy group that is now involved in the case, maintains that the set of materials given to MMS was incomplete, and that MMS overlooked the whistleblower’s charges. It later filed a request under the Freedom of Information ACT (FOA) to expedite verification from MMS that the company actually had a set of relevant Atlantis documents that were both complete and accurate, and the request was denied.

Food & Water Watch went on to contact Rep. Raul Grijalva about these complaints and also provided his staff with details of the investigation it had conducted, and BP’s attorney denied their allegations promptly and emphatically.

Grijalva persisted, indicating that, thus far, MMS had not been thorough enough in studying the problems at Atlantis, and that it was inconsistent to require that certain safety documents be maintained without stipulating that they must also be complete and accurate in order to protect the environment and the workers.

MMS began a formal investigation on March 26, and if the results prove to be unsatisfactory when it concludes, Food & Water Watch states that Congress should hold oversight hearings at once.