Reports warned BP of problems with well
Halliburton cited concerns about well’s design 2 days before blowout
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.
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.