The long-awaited report from the chief investigator for the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore, released Feb. 17, provides damning evidence that preventable engineering and management mistakes—rather than mechanical failings—were the primary cause of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion last spring.

The National Commission released its final report to the president on January 11. In that report, the panel concluded that human error, rather than mechanical failings, was the root cause of the explosion. The new report from chief investigator Fred Bartlit’s team, which looked in detail at the well blowout and rig explosion, bolsters those conclusions.

In their forward to the report, Commission Co-Chairs Sen. Bob Graham and William K. Reilly say, “In clear, precise and unflinching detail, this report lays out the confusion, lack of communication, disorganization and inattention to crucial safety issues and test results that led to the deaths of 11 men and the largest offshore oil spill in our nation’s history.”

Among the findings of the investigative team were:

  • BP was aware of problems with Halliburton personnel and work product years before the blowout;
  • Although testing of the blowout preventer may ultimately reveal flaws in that equipment, BOP failures were not the root cause of the blowout;
  • A BP engineering reorganization in early 2010 resulted in delays and distraction for the team drilling the Maconda well;
  • Although BP engineers recognized that there were problems with one of the Halliburton engineer’s work, they did not fully review his cement design;
  • The Transocean crew missed several signs of a “kick”--hydrocarbons in the riser--on the night of the blowout;
  • BP’s well design decisions complicated efforts to cap the well.
  • In a statement, Bartlit said, “The sad fact is that this was an entirely preventable disaster. Poor decisions by management were the real cause”