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BP Spill Raises Concern U.K. Drillers Don’t Plan for Disaster

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill last year raised concern among U.K. lawmakers that drillers in British waters aren’t making sufficient plans for accidents.

Parliament’s Energy and Climate Change Committee recommended rules requiring that offshore crew members are able to halt operations without getting permission from someone onshore. The governments should require that wells have blow-out preventers with two blind sheer rams to avoid a blowout similar to the one at BP Plc’s Macondo well last year that started the worst U.S. spill, according to the advisory committee.

“Despite the high regulatory standards in the U.K., we are concerned that the offshore oil and gas industry is responding to disasters, rather than anticipating worst-case scenarios and planning for high-consequence, low-probability events,” the committee wrote in a report published in London today.

The lobby group for U.K. oil producers said last week that companies are building a well cap designed by BP to use in British waters in case of a spill. Oil Spill Response Ltd. has commissioned the device that will be built by Cameron Ltd., Oil & Gas U.K. said.

The Gulf spill prompted President Barack Obama to ban deepwater drilling for months. The U.K. energy committee said there was insufficient evidence that there should be a similar moratorium in Britain and that such a ban would cause rigs to be deployed in other parts of the world, depriving the country of domestic production and energy security.

BP, Total, Chevron

BP, Total SA and Chevron Corp. are exploring in waters of similar depths to the Gulf of Mexico in the west of Scotland’s Shetland Islands.

“There are serious doubts about the ability of oil spill response equipment to function in the harsh environment of the open Atlantic in the West of Shetland,” the committee said.

It said the $245 million liability limit imposed by the Offshore Pollution Liability Association would be “insufficient” to cover the expenses of an accident. It also criticized a provision that companies only need to cover direct damage from a spill, saying the definition is unclear.

The committee said that BP’s internal investigation of the accident, called the Bly report after its main author Mark Bly, arrived at “controversial” conclusions about the Macondo well design and should only be considered along with other reports and investigations.

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