Based on a "thorough" review of the evidence, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM) said it found no evidence of unsafe conditions on BP plc's Atlantis oil and gas platform in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico (GOM).

The year-long investigation followed an April 2009 lawsuit filed under the False Claims Act by a former BP contractor. The contractor alleged that subsidiary BP Exploration and Oil Inc. did not properly maintain the engineer-approved "as built" drawings of systems and structures aboard the Atlantis facility and alleged that the absence of documentation created increased safety risks for the facility and to its personnel.

Atlantis, which is one of the largest production platforms in the GOM, ramped up in late 2007 (see Daily GPI, Dec. 19, 2007). At full capacity the platform is designed to pump 180 MMcf/d of gas and 200,000 b/d of oil. BP owns a 56% stake and operates the project, while BPH Billiton Ltd. has a 44% working interest.

BOEM said its investigation "included interviews of 29 individuals, analysis of more than 3,400 engineering drawings and related documents, and review of hundreds of additional documents. Based on a thorough review of the evidence, the investigation found the majority of the allegations to be unfounded, but did find that there were a number of problems with the way that BP organized, stored and labeled engineering drawings and documents."

No evidence was found that the documentation deficiencies " created specific unsafe conditions on the Atlantis production platform." BOEM personnel, led by the Investigations and Review Unit, concluded that the contractor's allegations "that Atlantis operations personnel lacked access to critical, engineer-approved drawings were without merit..." Allegations of false submissions by BP to federal officials also were said to be unfounded.

"As the report makes clear, although we found significant problems with the way BP labeled and maintained its engineering drawings and related documents, we found the most serious allegations to be without merit, including the suggestion that a lack of adequate documentation created a serious safety risk on the Atlantis facility," said BOEM Director Michael Bromwich. "We found no credible evidence to support that claim."

During its investigation, BOEM found that BP failed to file "certain required drawings depicting changes to some production safety system components." Once personnel determined that the safety system drawings had not been filed, BOEM issued an incident of noncompliance (INC) for the infraction.

BP has since provided the required drawings to BOEM, federal officials noted. The infraction "did not pose an immediate safety risk for the platform" and BP corrected the violation shortly after the INC was issued. BOEM did not refer the violation for civil penalties. The agency noted that it is in the process of evaluating potential enhancements to its civil penalty programs, which include revising current regulations and changes to existing policies.

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