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Transocean faulted in rig's explosion

NEW ORLEANS — Flaws in Transocean Ltd.'s emergency training and equipment and a poor safety culture contributed to the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion that led to the gulf oil spill, according to a Coast Guard report released Friday.

The report focused on Transocean's role in the disaster a year ago because it owned the rig and was responsible for its safety, the Coast Guard said. BP owned the well that blew out.

The Coast Guard report also concluded that decisions made by workers aboard the rig "may have affected the explosions or their impact," such as failing to follow procedures for notifying other crew members about the emergency after the blast.

The report doesn't explore the root causes of the well blowout, which triggered the explosions that killed 11 workers and sent millions of gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico.

But the Coast Guard said numerous actions by Transocean and the rig's crew affected their ability to prevent or limit the disaster.

Electrical equipment that may have ignited the explosion was poorly maintained, while gas alarms and automatic shutdown systems were bypassed so that they did not alert the crew, the report said. And rig workers didn't receive adequate training on how and when to disconnect the rig from the well to avoid an explosion, it said.

"These deficiencies indicate that Transocean's failure to have an effective safety management system and instill a culture that emphasizes and ensures safety contributed to this disaster," the report said.

Transocean spokesman Brian Kennedy said the Coast Guard inspected the Deepwater Horizon seven months before the blowout and certified it as being fully compliant with all applicable marine safety compliance standards. "We strongly disagree with … key findings in this report," he said in a statement.

Alaska a worry

A year after the disastrous gulf oil spill, the prospect of a major accident in oil's next frontier — the icy waters off Alaska's north coast — has experts even more concerned. With no roads connecting remote coastal towns, storms and fog that can ground aircraft, no deepwater ports for ships and the nearest Coast Guard station about one thousand miles away — it would be nearly impossible to respond on the scale that was needed last year to stop the runaway oil well and clean up the mess. That means the burden to respond would rest to an even greater degree on the company doing the drilling.

Transocean faulted in rig's explosion 04/22/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 22, 2011 10:49pm]
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