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Allen gives BP a mixed grade

By Martina Stewart, CNN Associate Producer
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Thad Allen grades BP
  • Thad Allen gives BP's performance in oil spill cleanup a mixed grade
  • BP did all it could do to cap the well head, Allen says
  • But he said the company needs to improve how it deals with people

Washington (CNN) -- As he reflects on lessons learned from dealing with the Gulf oil spill, the man charged with leading the federal response gave embattled energy giant BP a mixed grade Sunday.

Asked on CNN's "State of the Union" to give BP a grade from "A" to "F," retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen assessed different aspects of the company's response to the blown out well.

"At the well head, I'm not sure there's any oil company that could have done anything more than they did," Allen told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. "The technology that was needed to be brought in for other parts of the world, was [brought in]. It took a long time to engineer it. It took a long time to install it. But, ultimately, it helped us put the cap on and control the well. So I give them fairly good marks there."

But Allen added that where the energy giant's performance has been lacking is in having a human touch.

"What BP is not good at: they're a large global oil production company. They don't do retail sales or deal with individuals on a transactional basis. Anything that's involved, that has been a real struggle for them," Allen said.

He added, "It's something they don't naturally have a capacity or a competency in their company and it's been very, very hard for them to understand. And that's the lens by which the American people view them and that's the area where they need to improve the most."

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Allen also reflected on what the oil industry has learned in terms of production technology in the course of trying to bring the rogue well under control.

The former Coast Guard official said technology of the sort used to cap the well must be made a part of deepwater drilling going forward.

"Oil production in the Gulf of Mexico was done by wells that were on the bottom of the ocean with all the technology on the bottom of the ocean where there was no human access and all the oil was moved by pipes," he said. "We've had to bring in technology from the North Sea and off the coast of Africa to build these floating risers to create a production system that's able to deal with this spill.

"I think what everybody's learned moving through this is that there's going to have to be a different type of production method out there that includes the type of technology that they've used to cap this well and capture the oil and that needs to be a permanent part moving forward."

Asked whether the new technology could be integrated by November when the Obama administration's moratorium on deepwater drilling is set to be lifted, Allen pointed out that the necessary technology "has already been built around this well."

He added that the oil and gas industry is already starting to consider forming a consortium "to keep this type of equipment and take a look at it. And that's going to have to be a fundamental part of this."

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