BP accused of secrecy with Gulf oil spill database

Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig used by BP, has accused the British oil firm of withholding key data including computerised records and digital measurements. BP denies the accusations.

Transocean said it needs the data – including seismic measurements, digital pressure tests on the key blowout preventer safety device, and operational testing reports – in order to conduct its own investigations into the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The results ultimately found by investigations will affect who is found liable and how much they will end up paying out in fines and lawsuits.

Among results from BP’s early investigation, serious failures of key IT-based automated and manual safety systems were highlighted as playing a part in the devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill. A rig technician has subsequently claimed in federal testimony that safety systems were crashing and were switched off.

In a letter sent last week to BP’s legal team and copied to US president Barack Obama and members of Congress, Transocean lawyer Steven Roberts wrote: "BP has continued to demonstrate its unwillingness, if not outright refusal, to deliver even the most basic information to Transocean.

"This is troubling, both in light of BP's frequently stated public commitment to openness and a fair investigation and because it appears that BP is withholding evidence in an attempt to prevent any other entity other than BP from investigating."

Transocean said there were 16 categories of information BP had failed to hand over, including data from a new digital testing methodology for the well head. BP denies the accusations.

The lawyer also suggested BP had not been forthcoming with data for government investigators, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Additionally, Transocean claimed in the letter that it had handed over all data requested by BP for the British oil firm's own investigations. "Despite Transocean's prompt and transparent production of information requested by BP, BP has continued to demonstrate its unwillingness, if not an outright refusal, to deliver even the most basic information to Transocean,” it wrote.

But a spokesperson at the spill commission said BP continued to hand over relevant data, and the company has reportedly handed over a database of 220,000 pages of documents. The spokesperson said BP has “been at the forefront of cooperating with various investigations commissioned by the US government and others”. The accusations by Transocean were “misguided and misleading”, the spokesperson said.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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