When investigators try to determine exactly what transpired prior to any accident, a portion of their research boils down to two key questions: "What did you know, and when did you know it?"
Today, these two questions figure prominently in the ongoing investigation on the Deepwater Horizon tragedy and the cement used in the well. A letter from Fred H. Barlit Jr., the lead investigator for the presidential commission examining the Gulf blowout, reportedly casts doubt on the efficacy of the cement as well as the communications between BP and Halliburton before the cement was used in the well.
The presidential commission is continuing its work and will produce a report on its findings. At this point, it's much too early to speculate on a cause, or perhaps the causes, of the accident. What is clear, however, is that the oil and natural gas industry stepped up to the plate immediately after the accident to examine its own operations and suggest improvements that could help to prevent a similar accident from happening in the future.
Yesterday, API took the unprecedented step of making more than 160 key industry standards available online for public viewing at no charge. Among the standards are all of API's safety standards. As API President and CEO Jack Gerard said in a statement, the public has a right to know the measures that are in place to promote safety and improve the industry's environmental stewardship.
"API's industry standards represent our commitment to the highest level of safety in both operations and practices," Jack said. "We are working constructively with the Interior Department, which has referenced many of our standards in its regulations."
Some of the standards available online address offshore drilling, hydraulic fracturing, well construction, and pipeline safety among other topics. The documents are technical in nature. API will continue to sell them on a non-profit basis to oil and natural gas companies and their contractors. API began its standards program in 1924 and has continuously updated and added to its standards and recommended practices.