Re­ports warned BP of prob­lems with well

Hal­libur­ton cited con­cerns about well’s de­sign 2 days be­fore blowout

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION - By Brett Clanton

KEN­NER, La. — Hal­libur­ton Co. warned BP two days be­fore the deadly Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon ac­ci­dent that it could have a se­vere prob­lem with nat­u­ral gas es­cap­ing from its well if it stuck with an ex­ist­ing well plan, ac­cord­ing to an in­ter­nal re­port that emerged in an in­ves­tiga­tive hear­ing Tues­day.

The April 18 re­port — which was sent to BP of­fi­cials on land and on board the Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon — made rec­om­men­da­tions about the ce­ment job be­ing used to se­cure pipe-like cas­ing to the walls of the well in the Gulf of Mex­ico.

A faulty ce­ment job by Hal­libur­ton has been cited as a pos­si­ble fac­tor in the April 20 blowout that killed 11 work­ers, sank the Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon and launched one of the worst oil spills in U.S. his­tory.

The emer­gence of the re­port, how­ever, sug­gests BP might have ig­nored warn­ing signs about po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous con­di­tions in the well in the days lead­ing up the ac­ci­dent.

Ron­ald Sepul­vado, a BP well site leader on the Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon who left the rig four days be­fore the deadly blowout, tes­ti­fied Tues­day that he had re­ceived a sep­a­rate April 15 Hal­libur­ton re­port warn­ing of mi­nor gas flow risks but not the April 18 re­port.

“I didn’t read it in its en­tirety,” Sepul­vado told a joint panel of the Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Man­age­ment, Reg­u­la­tion and En­force­ment in­ves­ti­gat­ing the ac­ci­dent.

If there was a se­ri­ous risk, it should have been more clearly com­mu­ni­cated by BP en­gi­neers on shore in Hous­ton, Sepul­vado said.

BP has come un­der fire for not fol­low­ing Hal­libur­ton’s guide­lines in ce­ment­ing cas­ing in­side the well, and for not per­form­ing a widely used test of the ce­ment job’s in­tegrity called a ce­ment bond log.

But BP lawyers pro­duced an in­ter­nal Hal­libur­ton e-mail from April 20 that sug­gested what­ever con­cerns Hal­libur­ton might have had days be­fore had been re­solved be­fore the ac­ci­dent.

“We have com­pleted the job and it went well,” a Hal­libur­ton em­ployee wrote in an e-mail.

Sepul­vado also tes­ti­fied that BP con­tin­ued drilling for oil in the days be­fore the April 20 dis­as­ter de­spite the dis­cov­ery of leaks in­volv­ing the blowout pre­ven­ter, an emer­gency mech­a­nism that failed to ac­ti­vate af­ter the dis­as­ter.

Sepul­vado said he re­ported the prob­lem to se­nior com­pany of­fi­cials and as­sumed it would be re­layed to the Min­er­als Man­age­ment Ser­vice, which reg­u­lated off­shore drilling. The leak was on a con­trol pod con­nected to the blowout pre­ven­ter.

“I as­sumed ev­ery­thing was OK, be­cause I re­ported it to the team leader, and he should have re­ported it to MMS,” Sepul­vado said.

He couldn’t ex­plain why the com­pany didn’t re­spond to his re­port.

Sepul­vado said the leaks didn’t af­fect the func­tion­al­ity of the blowout pre­ven­ter.

But fed­eral off­shore drilling reg­u­la­tions state that if con­trol sta­tions or pods on a blowout pre­ven­ter don’t func­tion prop­erly, drilling op­er­a­tions should be sus­pended un­til they’re fixed.

Manuel Balce Ceneta

Rep. Joe Barton, R-En­nis, cen­ter, con­fers with Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Flower Mound, left, and an uniden­ti­fied coun­sel dur­ing con­gres­sional hear­ings Tues­day in Washington on the BP oil spill.

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