The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Julie Anderson (202) 683-2500

BP Records Show One of World's Largest Oil and Gas Platforms Lacks Documents Needed for Safe Operation and Maintenance

Food & Water Watch Urges Federal Agencies to Launch Investigation into British Petroleum’s Atlantis Before Accident Leads to Environmental Devastation


Today Food & Water Watch, a national consumer advocacy organization, urged the U.S. Department of the Interior and Minerals Management Service (MMS) to immediately suspend production on the largest moored floating dual oil- and gas-production facility in the world pending further investigation of documents critical to the project's safe operation and maintenance. Although the British Petroleum Atlantis Oil and Gas production platform (BP Atlantis) has been operating for more than a year and a half in Gulf of Mexico waters, Food & Water Watch is concerned with the lack of a large percentage of engineer-approved and up-to-date documents for its subsea equipment. The group sent a letter to Secretary Ken Salazar and the MMS Director Liz Birnbaum today asking for a "complete investigation [to] prevent a catastrophic failure."

"We are very concerned that the lack of final, engineer-approved documentation may mean that the platform has serious design problems," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, in the letter. "We fear that these deficiencies increase the risk of catastrophic operator errors, leading to harm to platform workers, the marine environment, and local fishing communities."

According to an analysis of a BP database from November 2008, the platform lacks a large percentage of approved "issued for design," "issued for construction," and "as built" subsea piping and instrument diagrams (P&IDs), drawings that are necessary for the project's safe operation and maintenance. Food & Water Watch is concerned that incomplete documentation could lead to a catastrophic error on the BP Atlantis, which has a production capacity of 8.4 million gallons of oil and 180 million cubic feet of gas a day. Since the platform is located more than 150 miles off the coast of New Orleans, Louisiana, any design fault is a risk to an already vulnerable area threatened by the current hurricane season.

As stated in Food & Water Watch's letter, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a 70 percent chance of between nine and 14 named tropical storms in this year alone. Tropical storms can wreak havoc on energy platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, posing serious harm to the marine environment and the local fishing communities that rely on it. For example, in 2008, 60 platforms were destroyed as a result of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. The Associated Press reported at least 448 releases of oil, gasoline, and other substances in Louisiana and Texas as a result of Hurricane Ike.

"If BP prides itself on being a progressive, responsible and green company, then it should do everything in its power to ensure its largest facility is fail-safe," stated Hauter. "Given the extent of the platform's lack of documentation, and the serious dangers that can result from operating without this documentation, we urge MMS to launch an immediate investigation."

Food & Water Watch mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people's health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.

(202) 683-2500