It looks like BP CEO Tony Hayward is on his way out, to be replaced by a Mississippi-born American, Robert Dudley. He’s already a familiar face because BP put him out front to handle the spill weeks ago.
But replacing Hayward won’t solve the company’s problems. Its sullied reputation stems from a clear record of choosing profits over safety, as an investigation taking place out of the spotlight has made clear.
For example, on the day of the blowout, BP managers decided to skip a typically routine, and time-consuming, “cement bond log” test that could have detected fissures in the cementing of the well. They did not use the recommended 21 “centralizers” to position the well prior to the cement job, deploying just six instead. They used the cheaper of two well designs, one with fewer barriers to rising gas but costing $7 to $10 million less.
They were also conscious of the value of mud. On the day of the explosion, the expensive drilling fluid was taken out of the well and offloaded to an adjacent boat precisely when, as it turned out, the mud was the only thing suppressing the “well from hell,” as the widow of one rig worker called it.
The seeming insensitivity of the gaffe-prone Hayward infuriated an American public already angry about the spill. But the real problems lay with a company culture that focused on profits above everything else.
Meanwhile, U.S. regulators still don’t know whether that culture invades other deepsea drilling operations at other companies because inspections have not concluded. Nor are the other oil companies prepared to handle a huge spill of the sort that BP still struggles with at the site of the Deepwater Horizon. The big companies are only now coming together with the kind of plan for a disastrous spill that they should have had years ago.
It’s much too soon for drilling to resume.