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Oil Spill Hearings: BP's Actions Before Disaster Look Problematic

There are eight ongoing investigations into the causes of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, one of which is by the Marine Board of Investigation, a joint effort of the U.S. Coast Guard and the Minerals Management Service. The New Orleans Times-Picayune has provided thorough coverage of the investigation's hearings, which continued today with a sixth day of testimony.

So far, BP (BP), the oil company behind the Deepwater Horizon oil exploration, has come out looking particularly horrible, though no one has emerged looking terrific. Below is a round-up of issues raised in the hearings, with a quick summary at the end of this article.

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The Pressure Question

On the day of the explosion, BP and Transocean argued over whether or not to perform a negative-pressure test on the well, with Transocean ultimately persuading BP to do the test. What test results emerged is not 100% clear. The testimony generally agrees that the first test was considered a failure, which suggested problems with the cement lining the well.

The testimony conflicts about whether the second test, done after making some adjustments, was successful. The second test returned 15 barrels of mud, although ideally none should have come back. Some crew members testified about ongoing concerns with the second test result, but both BP's Hafle and Jimmy Harrell, Transocean's top drilling official on the well, testified that the results were fine.

However the second test result is characterized, the first should have triggered the performance of a cement bond log, a test considered the "gold standard" to determine the integrity of cement in such situations. Last month a top executive for Halliburton (HAL), the cement contractor on the rig, told Congress that a cement bond log should be done whenever a pressure test fails. BP had a team on site on the rig's last day that could have done a cement bond log test, but the team was sent home before either pressure test was performed.

Regardless of whether or not the second test was successful, the well was experiencing pressure problems as late as 20 minutes before the explosion, according to Transocean Chief Mate David Young. He testified that 20 minutes before the explosion he went to ask two senior drillers when cement would be needed and found them discussing problematic readings. They explained they had to figure out the readings before the cement meeting. Young didn't ask them more questions, and sadly both drillers were killed in the explosion.

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"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." ~ Albert Einstein

Pretty good article...

I just have one disagreement with it:

"What testimony from these hearings suggests is that perhaps the blowout preventer would have worked if it had been triggered when the well-pressure problems were noted, instead of after the explosion. The explosions appear to have damaged the equipment."

The could be true...had they "pushed the button" sooner it may have worked. But the explosion, assuming they mean the blast on the rig floor, could not have damaged the BOP a mile down at the sea floor.

They knew it was blowing out before the explosion, because first seawater that was in the riser started blowing up onto the rig floor, followed by the explosive gases and oil.

The blowout itself could have been too strong to close off the BOP once the blowout was under way, but one testimony I have heard several times mentioned that during a test, where they have the BOP closed up around the drill pipe to seal the well in for the test, that a driller bumped a joystick by mistake which started pulling up the drill pipe. This stressed the rubber 'pinchers' and broke off pieces of it. The damage wasn't realized right away until rubber pieces started circulating up.

'Cause there's a monster on the loose

A 'previous accident' weeks before

has been mentioned several times but the details are not being released or are sketchy. Seems whatever it was damaged a key piece of safety equipment. Have you heard this 'previous accident' discussed?

I've been following 'the oil drum' the conversations going back about 10 threads now..since I found that site. Much of it is over my head but I'm gleaning more understanding from that site than anywhere else.

I think the only way that will stop it is the relief wells and they need to be drilling several of those instead of just one. I understand that could take several months or more! In the meantime I pray anything that can slow/capture some of the oil will be successful. I would also like to see more aggressive prevention to the shores and more cleanup going on that what appears so far!

Here is the latest thread on the BP Gulf Oil Spill

The LMRP Attempt

"I think we are living in a world of lies: lies that don't even know they are lies, because they are the children and grandchildren of lies." ~ Chris Floyd

I think the 'accident' you're talking about ...

is the one where they had the BOP closed around the drill pipe, and a driller bumped a joystick and the pipe started pulling up. It damaged the 'pinchers' of the BOP, made of rubber. I hear they found pieces circulating up to the rig.

The oil drum does have some good info.

The relief wells will work, but they do have a few weeks before they reach the old well where they need to intersect. I have a crew there now, they just finished a hole section and are down past 12,000'. I hear they need to intersect the original hole at 16,000'.

It DOES seem like they could do more on preventing it from reaching shore, and/or cleaning off the shore and out of the water. This is where Gov could help, but they should otherwise stay out of the way of the subsea issues.

'Cause there's a monster on the loose


thanks for posting.

"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." ~ Albert Einstein