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Gulf oil spill update: What's known now about cause and effects

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A BP report published in September suggests the explosion was the result of an interlinked series of missteps, including mechanical failures and human errors, among all partners. Transocean called the report "self-serving" and called BP's well design flawed. Halliburton said the report had "substantial omissions and inaccuracies."

Halliburton received its own share of blame in late October when the investigator for the presidential commission issued a report saying that the company had used a cement mixture it knew was unstable. The commission did not blame the accident on Halliburton's cementing job, though.

A lead investigator on the presidential commission reported this week that BP does not share sole responsibility for the accident, indicating that it was likely due to several missteps among all the partners. One example is the decision by BP and Transocean to operate the well after a pressure test suggested that it was not stable enough to handle the explosive gas and oil mixture.

Is the oil cleaned up?

The cleanup efforts – paid for by BP, directed by the US Coast Guard – continue in the Gulf, with about 9,200 workers and 200 local vessels. At the height of the crisis, more than 48,000 workers and 3,200 vessels were involved.

Oil is still being discovered along the shorelines of all four coastal states, even appearing in areas that were once cleaned, a frustrating situation caused by unpredictable tidal patterns.

In an Oct. 27 briefing, the oil spill response command said 93 miles of coastline had moderate to heavy oil. Two months earlier, on Aug. 24, that number was 135 miles.

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