Cap marks only end of beginning for BP crisis

July 15, 2010

BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil disaster knocked Goldman Sachs off the front pages. It’s just the UK oil major’s luck that its best news in 86 days was overshadowed by Goldman’s settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Few will praise BP’s speed, but its initial complete capping of the well is a big step forward. Restoring credibility and relations with Uncle Sam will, however, take years.

It could still go wrong again. But if the seemingly successful test on Thursday turns into part of a longer-term solution to the leak, it will mark the end of a period that has been torture for BP — but only the beginning of a healing process for the company and its bruised shareholders. For the first time since April, there won’t be live pictures of its oil gushing into U.S. waters. And the company’s bill will no longer be ticking higher by the barrel. All being well, BP will get a breather from bad publicity while it works on the permanent answer — its relief wells.

The company will still face serious problems. The success of the latest cap will raise the question of why it wasn’t available earlier, adding to the impression that BP was hopelessly ill-prepared for an accident. And even if not another drop leaks into the sea, BP’s financial hangover will be monumental. Based on reasonable assumptions, the total bill for clean-up and damages could approach $40 billion, though some costs may be tax-deductible. And before long, investors will be clamoring to see a plan for the restoration of the company’s once gold-plated dividend.

Rebuilding any kind of trust with U.S. authorities is also likely to require diplomatic skills far beyond those of Tony Hayward, the damaged BP chief executive who charmed few Americans, and the frequently invisible chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg. Some lawmakers are working on legislation seemingly tailored specifically to exclude BP from future U.S. projects. With almost half of its pre-crisis value hinging on its U.S. businesses, BP can ill afford to be left out in the cold.

So while a sigh of relief may be in order, there’s still much hard work to be done. BP has dismissed all talk of corporate change, saying it is single-mindedly focused on capping the well. It no longer has that excuse. Management change is now top of the agenda.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

Whilst recognising that Journalists as well as many of the commentators on the BP oil spill are not engineers but I would have thought that they would have had sufficient knowledge that what has happened and what is needed to rectify has not been experienced before. It is in parallel to the Apollo 13 disaster in that engineers are having to design solutions on the fly. Obviously the caps that were required to cover the well head did not exist and having been designed with great haste then had to be manufactured and transported to site. This was not an activity that can be achieved overnight and The engineers and manufacturers should get some praise for what they have achieved to date in trying and difficult circumstances with the public and politicians breathing down their necks.

I would further comment on the constant reference to BP being British and references to the American politicians to shut BP out of further American involvement. In this day and age of Multi national companies the Governments and people of where they operate need them as much as the company needs their custom. BP is just as much an American company as it is British. Remember that many American people rely on BP for employment, pensions and income let alone the revenue that the American G

Posted by GROCK | Report as abusive

Here we go yet again, the yanks led by Obama doing everything and trying to undermine BP in order for Obama to assist his beloved Exxon Mobil to get BP on the cheap.
W hat about Bhopal yanks and all the rest (too many to mention but all hushed up).

Grow up yanks we know what your game is, BP will not fall and will always be top dog in the oil game. Sorry Obama you wont win this one.
Regards Dave.

Posted by palbard | Report as abusive

” BP will not fall and will always be top dog in the oil game” this is based on what, exactly? I don’t think it will even keep it’s #5 spot, at least structured as it is now.

“BP is just as much an American company as it is British.” Does it bleed? Thats all I care about. I don’t think I’m alone, and I’m fairly certain we (Yanks, I guess) are going to find out.

It’s not soccer, er rather, football boys. Cheers…

Posted by nonsuch77 | Report as abusive

I agree with GROCK. It would appear that there was not the depth of catastrophic preparedness as their should have been. As far as palbard is concerned, the original tea party was for good cause . . .

Posted by sb0623 | Report as abusive

With formal registered letters since 2006 I have been requesting USPTO to hire Hydrogeologists or Soil Physicists as Patent Examiners to protect a huge technological gap in the patenting system regarding fluids moving on porosity to fluidic devices. Deploying fundamentals of Classic Hydrology from Geo Sciences and Agricultural Sciences to the patenting system offers an opportunity to fulfill a void of understanding of hydrodynamics important to many applications.

Lay people circumventing Hydrology uses the expression wick/wicking issued on around 25,000 patents that the guys does not know advanced science and that the phenomenon is called UNSATURATED HYDRAULIC CONDUCTIVITY.

US Government is allowing Advanced Science be harmed and violated by lay people restraining a technological development that could be critical to ‘American security’ like avoiding environmental catastrophes by professionals that has not enough expertise on the subject they are handling.

Many professionals at USPTO could go to jail for violating simple Ethical principles of judging on a subject they have no expertise – HYDROLOGY. My patent US 6,766,817 is being violated by lazy patents with scientific flaws that even do not work. Even worse, a Patent Examiner was a Director meaning that the engrained bias goes upward in the chain of power.

Who cares? This environmental disaster is a collective punishment for leadership negligence and dishonesty overstepping the boundaries of science – human present knowledge on the functioning of nature.

God bless America.

Posted by Hydrology | Report as abusive

The spilling well is an upward flow against gravity.

If the well were clogged with junk shot using high density particles falling in the well lumen it would have been clogged thoroughly through 3.5 km deep well lumen solving the problem once and for all. High specific objects of many sizes falling and sealing the wall entirely from bottom to top.

The falling riser brought stress to the well casing that is now leaking methane around the casing well.

This is the consequence when Hydrology is being neglecting in the technological development. I have a sort of ‘scientific discovery’ in hydrodynamics as an issued patent US 6,766,817 constantly violated by flawed patents that ignore my PhD textbooks. USPTO has around 6,000 patent examiners and none of them is a Hydrologist.

I think that BP has no Hydrologist in the technical staff because injecting golf balls and shredded tires is a proof that those experts never learned about detachment, transport, and deposition of particles in a dynamic flow like those plenty taught in Soil Science. People knows about Erosion a lot coming back to the Dust Bown.

The situation still is ugly and Hydrological insights from a classical science are missing to bring a better outcome.

Just imagine if the well were clogged just in the very early beginning with appropriate solutions based on a sound science called HYDROLOGY.

I am not disappointed when my advanced science patent is violated by flawed from lay people as endorsed by inventors, patent attorneys, and patent examiners. Consequences come when a science is curtailed and ignored. This oil spill is a lesson on the importance of being HONEST and respect NATURE.

Posted by Hydrology | Report as abusive