BOEMRE: Missing drawings did not create unsafe conditions on Atlantis

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Mar. 4 -- BP Exploration & Production Inc. did not maintain required copies of engineer-approved drawings for its Atlantis oil and gas platform in the Gulf of Mexico, an investigation by the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement found. But the inquiry’s conclusions did not support the most serious allegations by a former contractor that these specific documentation deficiencies created unsafe conditions on the offshore production platform, BOEMRE’s investigations and review unit said on Mar. 3.

Kenneth A. Abbott, a former BP contractor, sued the company under the False Claims Act in April 2009. He alleged that the company’s not maintaining copies of engineer-approved drawings for the facility, as regulations promulgated by what was then the US Minerals Management Service required, created imminent and significant safety risks there. A finding of serious safety violations potentially could have threatened BP’s continued designation as the Atlantis field’s operator.

BOEMRE’s investigation report said it found the electronic document database used by BP to store documents developed during the production platform’s design, contraction, and installation was disorganized and unable to handle large volumes of information that the producer and its contractors generated. BP also used a confusing labeling system for engineering drawings in the project files, and the drawings contained undated and missing stamps and signatures, inconsistent titles, and other defects, it said.

But investigators also found that Atlantis operations personnel did not rely on the deficient documents and drawings. Instead, they used “systems handover packages” which included engineering documents and drawings compiled by engineers BP personnel, including engineers with knowledge of each type of component being handed over and transferred to the platform before production began, the report said.

It said Abbott was not responsible for the platform’s operations while he worked there, and consequently was never in a position to directly evaluate its safety. His allegations were based on concerns about engineering and design documents’ adequacy which no witnesses interviewed for the investigation recalled any employee expressing concern about not being readily available, it said.

“Because we find no basis to conclude that the document organization and labeling problems that BP admitted experiencing with the Atlantis facility amount to a threat of serious, irreparable or immediate harm or damage, suspension is not warranted at this time,” the report concluded. “Likewise, Mr. Abbott’s allegations provide no basis that would support a finding by BOEMRE that BP’s operating performance with respect to the Atlantis facility was unacceptable. Thus, revocation of BP’s designation as an operator is not warranted at this time.”

A BP spokesman told OGJ by e-mail that the company has not yet had the opportunity to review BOEMRE’s report. “Throughout this process, BP contributed its full cooperation with the agency investigation, maintaining our belief that Atlantis is, and at all times has been, safe and fit for service,” he said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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