When the Enron scandal brought down Arthur Andersen, it was an open secret that the hearts of the other four of the “Big Five” accounting firms skipped a beat. Arthur Andersen had done nothing that the other four hadn’t also been doing, but Arthur Andersen was the unlucky company which got caught, prompting the others to change their work pratices pretty damned quickly.
A friend of mine tells me that Shell has sent an internal memo around saying there is a time to be a competitor, and there is a time to show support, and now is the time to show support for BP over the Macondo well disaster.
I am certain that the other five supermajors will all be contributing everything they can to help BP, which is why suggestions to hand everything over to ExxonMobil are pretty daft (even assuming that Exxon really want a runaway well spewing crude all over the Gulf of Mexico dumped on their desk because they happen to be American and acceptable to the more nationalistic of the US public at large). It is the entire industry which is under scrutiny here and the ramifications of this disaster will be far reaching and affect all oil companies severely. It is very much in everybody’s interests to get this thing under control and minimise the damage.
Also, I expect when the technical aspects of the accident become known to the other majors they might well see some similarities, or maybe even little difference, with their own operating practices. Maybe one or two of them will be able to relate what happened to BP to a situation they had previously. Guaranteed they will be changing their procedures as we speak, but I wonder if there are any oil company executives waking in the night in a cold sweat thinking “That could have been us.”