WSJ: Oil Rig Operator Had More Accidents After Massive Merger

Under the Bush administration, the Department of the Interior was literally handed over to the lobbyists (remember Steve Griles? He was convicted fo

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Under the Bush administration, the Department of the Interior was literally handed over to the lobbyists (remember Steve Griles? He was convicted for lying to Congress in the Jack Abramoff case). So while the brand-new Obama administration rubber-stamped a waiver to Deepwater Horizon, the bulk of the blame for this spill properly belongs to Bush:

The sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which triggered the spill spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico, caught the energy world by surprise. The operator, Transocean Ltd., is a giant in the brave new world of drilling for oil in deep waters far offshore. It had been honored by regulators for its safety record. The very day of the blast on the rig, executives were aboard celebrating its seven straight years free of serious accidents.

But a Wall Street Journal examination of Transocean's record paints a more equivocal picture.

Nearly three of every four incidents that triggered federal investigations into safety and other problems on deepwater drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico since 2008 have been on rigs operated by Transocean, according to an analysis of federal data. Transocean defended its safety record but didn't dispute the Journal's analysis.

In addition, an industry survey of oil companies that hired Transocean perceived a drop in its quality and performance, including safety by some measures, compared with its peers, though it still scored tops in one safety category.

Already the largest deep-water driller, Transocean in November 2007 took over rival GlobalSantaFe in an $18 billion deal. A Journal analysis of records maintained by the U.S. Minerals Management Service found that Transocean's share of incidents in deep water investigated by the regulator has gone up since the merger, even after accounting for its increased size.

From 2005 through 2007, a Transocean rig was involved in 13 of the 39 deep-water drilling incidents investigated by the MMS in the Gulf of Mexico, or 33%. That's roughly in line with the percentage of deep-water rigs, 30%, Transocean owned and operated in the Gulf then, according to data firm RigLogix.

Since the merger, Transocean has accounted for 24 of the 33 incidents investigated by the MMS, or 73%, despite during that time owning fewer than half the Gulf of Mexico rigs operating in more than 3,000 feet of water.

Some of Transocean's clients have cited the merger as a reason they believe the company's performance has dropped.

About Susie Madrak

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