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Guest Post: Discussion of Congressional Hearings on Deepwater Horizon

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By Glenn Stehle, an engineer who began working in the oil industry in 1974. After a two-year stint with Cities Service Oil Company, he worked for two years for Henry Engineering, a petroleum engineering consulting firm. Upon leaving Henry Engineering he worked as an independent engineering consultant in all facets of the oil and gas business. He has extensive experience in drilling operations. He retired in 2000 and now lives in Mexico.

Yesterday and today the Senate and House of Representatives conducted hearings on the Gulf oil well blowout.

The video of the Senate hearing can be found here.

I couldn’t find a video of the congressional hearing, but if someone knows where it can be viewed I’d appreciate it. For persons like myself who are interested in the nuts and bolts of the downhole problems, Waxman, DeGette, Scalise and Braley gave impressive performances, which I’d like to see again.
The congresspersons did a far, far superior job than the senators. Their witnesses are highly uncooperative, so it is clear that informants are feeding the congresspersons insider information. Here’s a Wall Street Journal report that sums up my sentiments perfectly, so I’ll let that suffice for editorial comment and move directly to some observations and explanations:

Here’s what came out in the congressional hearing:

1) This was a problematic well that had experienced chronic pressure control problems (Scalise questioning)
2) Following cementing of the production liner (in oilfield jargon, a liner = casing that doesn’t extend to the surface), no log was ran to confirm the integrity of the cement job (DeGette questioning)
3) Before displacing the drilling mud from the riser, there were two tests that were performed. One is a positive test that tests the integrity of the liner (casing). The other is a negative test that tests the integrity of the casing hanger-seal assembly. The second test failed. (Waxman questioning)
4) When the negative test failed, the written well prognosis required that rig personnel not proceed until contacting BP’s office in Houston (Waxman questioning)
5) The decision was made to proceed with well abandonment despite the failed negative test, and the crew proceeded to displace the mud in the riser with seawater.
6) There was a radio transmitter on the rig that sent various real-time parameters back to Houston which were recorded on a chart. Two minutes before the transmitter went dead, the standpipe pressure increased suddenly from 500 psi to 3500 psi. (Braley questioning)

I spoke of the significance of 1) and 2) in my former post, so won’t discuss them further here.

As to 3), here’s what a wellhead looks like:

Picture 40

This wellhead is designed for three casing strings, with the smallest diameter pipe shown running through the wellhead being the drillpipe. The largest diameter casing is called “surface” casing, which is either welded to or screwed onto the bottom of the wellhead. The middle sized casing is called “intermediate” casing and is hung off in the wellhead using a hanger-seal assembly (illustrated in pink). The “production” casing is also hung off in the wellhead using a hanger-seal assembly (also illustrated in pink). The hanger-seal assembly supports some of the weight of the casing and also seals off the casing-wellbore annulus. In the case of the BP well, the hanger-seal assembly should have had a minimum working pressure of 15,000 psi, that is it should be able to hold back 15,000 psi.

The blowout preventer stack is bolted on top of the wellhead, and if you scroll down to the bottom of this pdf you can see what one of those looks like.

As the illustration shows, on top of the blowout preventer is attached the riser, which runs up to the drill ship. On top of the riser is another annular pressure control device (16). Above this are a number of connectors that telescope and pivot to compensate for the movement of the ship and topping all this off is a diverter. The diverter is a low-pressure device. The one illustrated (10) has a working pressure of 500 psi.

In the BP well, 20 hours before the blowout they had run casing to a total depth of 18,360 feet below sea level and cemented with 51 barrels of cement slurry. In the case of the BP well this was the ninth casing string or liner, and a well schematic can be found here.

After waiting a short time for the cement to set up, they hung the casing off in the wellhead with a hanger-seal assembly. I say a short time because it was always my policy to wait at least 24 hours after cementing to give the cement time to cure. Green cement is not that strong.

Then they performed the positive pressure test to test the casing and the negative test to test that the hanger-seal assembly had sealed properly. The negative test failed.

Then they began displacing the drilling mud out of the riser. They would have done this by pumping seawater down the drill pipe and out the drillpipe-riser annulus. As they were pumping, the standpipe (drillpipe) pressure suddenly increased from 500 psi to 3500 psi, and then transmission from the rig went dead. We know how that movie ended.

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45 comments

  1. Abhishek

    What will be the outcome of this oil disaster ? NOTHING

    Just like earlier oil spills like Exxon Valdez and other , don’t expect this oil spill to change anything in regulation or policy making.The current administration has offered to allow states to drill oil off their coasts, I don’t think this spill will change anything . The super rich oil industry with its army of lobbyists will ensure that nothing changes the status quo. What options do we have to substitute oil – NOTHING.

    Well that is what the oil lobby will tell you.They will also tell you that renewable energy energy is too expensive,its not scalabe and global warming and IPCC are frauds.

  2. Crocodile Chuck

    “After waiting a short time for the cement to set up, they hung the casing off in the wellhead with a hanger-seal assembly. I say a short time because it was always my policy to wait at least 24 hours after cementing to give the cement time to cure. Green cement is not that strong.”

    a fascinating mash-up with the Lisa Margonelli piece yesterday as regards the organisational pressure and fatigue afflicting the rig team at the end of a two week roster

    and another smashing post; thank you Mr. Stehle

    1. Glenn Stehle

      Crocodile Chuck,

      The Margonelli article was superb.

      One can’t help but be struck by the contrast between all this technological wizardry on the one hand and human behavior on the other. Humans created all these marvels, but on the other hand still behave as if they lived in caves.

      Can we as humans do better?

      I don’t know. But one thing’s for sure, and that is that this blowout would never have occurred if humans didn’t act like humans.

      The other thing that I hope people take away from this is that not everyone in the oil and gas industry is a bad actor, just as I believe that not everyone in the financial services industry is a bad actor. From these hearings it is obvious that numerous people are feeding the congresspersons insider information—-the congresspersons certainly didn’t get much useful information from the witnesses testifying before them. Given the nature of this information, the persons providing this information would have to be employees of BP, Transocean, Halliburton and others who work for companies associated with the drilling of that well. I suppose there could be a number of motives for people to come forth with this information, but certainly not all of them are self-serving. In any given situation, there is always a class of people that is interested in pursuing truth and justice, and included in this class are people who are just ordinary working people.

      1. Richard Kline

        Some of those folks feeding the congressmembers needed info doubtless knew some of the eleven joes that got blown out from under their helmets, and may want to see the corporate uppers quit blowing smoke and man up to the screw-up that cost something more than money. 2) Bingo. No log. How they could have proceeded after the negative test failed too strains ones brain, but ‘human error’ is the first hypothesis. We’ll wait and see if someone gave them a directive to that effect, though.

        The analogy that comes to my mind with all this—not particularly appropriate, but in its way telling—is of a crew of highly experienced mountaineers summitting Denali. They’ve done stuff like this before; it’s tough, it’s technical, they’re on it. Hasn’t been a good climb, but they’ve got a window to make it; it’s their mission, they’re competitive blokes, and just quick up and quick down and the whole thing’s done. Bone tired, not thinking too clearly, but that goes with the territory. Made the top, and they run out of smarts and luck 500 m into the descent, right where they were going to if they’d thought it through. Human error? Bad planning? Excessive risks? Bad luck? Yes.

        Thanks for the detail on this Glenn.

  3. NS

    What grade of steel was used and where was it manufactured, did it meet spec? Who manufactured the blowout valve, seals, pressure control devices and other components manufactured, including the screws; were they tested for minimal industry standards before installation and if so, by whom?

  4. MarcoPolo

    Ive never been on a rig and dont want to second guess those who do this every day but have some questions. 

    A.  The autoshear on the BOP is shown as optional equip.  Are there no MMS regs which require this?  Is this or has this been generally accepted as not necessary?  Why?  And I read someplace that the ram in this instance had been replaced with one that was incapable of cutting the casing.  Do you have any explanation as to why that might have been done?

    B.  Under what circumstances would it be appropriate to displace mud after a test failure of the hangers?  Do those tests sometimes yield false negatives?  Is it possible that those responsible for the displacement didn’t know the test results?  Does MMS write & inforce SOP’s and are there checks to insure that can’t happen?     

    1. jdmckay

      And I read someplace that the ram in this instance had been replaced with one that was incapable of cutting the casing. Do you have any explanation as to why that might have been done?

      Transocean was supplier for this equipment. I read somewhere (sorry, read so much I don’t have link) that, in response to this, Transocean released statement saying that BP ordered the design change in ’05, and Transocean modified it to BP’s spec.

    2. Glenn Stehle

      MarcoPolo,

      To answer your questions:

      Q. The autoshear on the BOP is shown as optional equip. Are there no MMS regs which require this? Is this or has this been generally accepted as not necessary?
      A. I don’t know what the current regulations are. I believe all offshore rigs are equipped with shear rams. What came out in the hearings is that US regulations do not require a remote acoustic signaling device to trigger closure of the blowout preventers, as is the case in Norway, Great Britain and Brazil. This well was not equipped with that remote signaling device, so there were only two ways to close the blowout preventers: 1) electric wires running down to the blowout preventers from the drill ship, and 2) hydraulic tubes running down to the blowout preventers from the drill ship. If both electric and hydraulic communication between the rig floor and the blowout preventers was lost, there would have been no way to activate the blowout preventers. The blowout preventers are supposed to close automatically in the event that hydraulic communication between the rig floor and the blowout preventers is lost. However, as came out in the hearings, there are circumstances where that might not happen. There were evidently serious maintenance issues with the blowout preventers. Stupak spent almost all his time delving into these issues.

      Q. And I read someplace that the ram in this instance had been replaced with one that was incapable of cutting the casing. Do you have any explanation as to why that might have been done?
      A. As you can see from the illustration in the pdf I linked, there are many blowout preventers in a blowout preventer stack. In that illustration there are a total of 6 ram-type preventers and two annular-type preventers in the blowout preventer stack itself, plus an annular-type device on top of the riser. Some of the ram-type preventers in the blowout preventer stack would have pipe rams installed in them, some blind rams, and at least one shear rams. Pipe rams only function with one specific size of pipe. Blind rams only function when there is no pipe in the hole. Shear rams will shear drill pipe, but not drill pipe joints or casing. Annular blowout preventers close on any size pipe or on open hole. One set of rams on the blowout preventer had been replaced with rams that made it easier to test—a time-saving measure. Transocean claims it did this at the request and expense of BP. BP claims it had no knowledge of these changes.

      Q. Under what circumstances would it be appropriate to displace mud after a test failure of the hangers?
      A. None. That would be suicidal, if not outright criminal.

      Q. Do those tests sometimes yield false negatives?
      A. No. Any irregularity is a negative. It would be tantamount to taking off in an airplane whose flaps might work. It’s something you have to be 100% sure about before proceeding.

      Q. Is it possible that those responsible for the displacement didn’t know the test results?
      A. No. With the instant communications we have today, BP’s guys back in the office in Houston or London or wherever making the decisions would know, and the hands doing the work on the rig floor would most definitely know. The guys back in the office proceeded because they were in a hurry to get the job done. The rig hands proceeded because they were following orders and wanted to be good soldiers. Unfortunately, if we look at a toll of the dead, it looks like all the rig hands that were on that rig floor—-the toolpusher, the driller and the roughnecks—-are dead.

      Q. Does MMS write & enforce SOP’s and are there checks to insure that can’t happen?
      A. I don’t know what the current situation is, as I left the industry in 2000. When I first broke out in the oilfield in 1974, I saw quite a bit of state and federal inspectors. But over the years, they slowly disappeared to the point where it was a rare occurrence to see one.

      1. Bob S

        Hi, Glenn
        Thanks for the very informative update. I’m wondering about the 500-3500 psi spike in the standpipe. That’s pretty extraordinary. Do you know what was on the end of the drill string when they are displacing mud from the riser? Any idea what depth the drill pipe was at when doing the displacement operation? Was there drill/collars pipe inside of the BOPs? Guessing the answer to that is ‘yes’.
        I can’t imagine how a huge spike like this could take place unless there was some kind of sudden flow stoppage in the drill string. Were the rig pumps responsible for the spike? Or was it gas from below? I wouldn’t expect an annular blowout such as a casing hanger failure to cause such a huge pressure surge inside the DP.

        1. Glenn Stehle

          Q. I’m wondering about the 500-3500 psi spike in the standpipe. That’s pretty extraordinary.
          A. My feelings exactly. It’s most extraordinary, and it doesn’t support my original theory, which is that they had a bubble trapped in the riser that when they began circulating the mud out they moved it to the surface and failed to see the pit gain until the bubble was upon them. Braley’s questioning begins at minute 2:33:50 on Part 1 of the hearing (that Usual Suspect was kind enough to furnish in his comment above). Braley put the actual chart up on the overhead projector to see. Take a look. The evidence is pretty conclusive.

          Q. Do you know what was on the end of the drill string when they are displacing mud from the riser?
          A. No.

          Q. Any idea what depth the drill pipe was at when doing the displacement operation?
          A. No. There are conflicting reports. I’ve read 8,000 ft., and I’ve read just a couple of hundred feet below the wellhead (in preparation to set the final cement plug).

          Q. Was there drill/collars pipe inside of the BOPs?
          A. Drill pipe, regardless of which of the two conflicting reports above proves true.

          Q. Were the rig pumps responsible for the spike? Or was it gas from below?
          A. I don’t know. But two minutes after taking this kick the rig blew up.

          Take a look at Waxman’s questioning too concerning the positive pressure test and negative test. It begins at minute 1:58:40.

          Unfortunately it looks like everyone that was on the drilling floor—-the toolpusher, driller and roughnecks—-are now dead, and much of the recorded data went down with the ship. So we may never know exactly what happened.

          If the seal assembly gave way and it had a gas bubble trapped behind it at 5700 psi (the hydrostatic head of 5000 ft. of seawater plus 3500 psi), how long would it take for gas to reach the surface? I’ve no experience with that sort of thing.

        2. Glenn Stehle

          Bob S,

          Here is a copy of the well procedure:
          http://energycommerce.house.gov/Press_111/20100512/Internal.BP.Email.Regarding.Negative.Test.Results.pdf

          It looks like the drill pipe would have been at 8367’.
          Everything I’ve heard indicates they were on step 5, which is circulating out the drilling mud.

          Here’s a copy of the operational well log for the last two hours:
          http://energycommerce.house.gov/Press_111/20100512/Halliburton-Last.Two.Hours.Chart.pdf

          If the flow meter is to be trusted, it looks like they took a slight kick from 20:26 to 20:35.

          It looks like they took another kick, a little larger, from 20:59 to 21:09.

          At 21:09, my guess is they noticed they were taking a kick and stopped pumping.

          They waited from 21:09 to 21:14 but weren’t getting any flow out the annulus so at 21:14 continued pumping.

          They pumped from 21:14 to 21:30 but weren’t getting any returns out the annulus. At this point they knew they had a serious problem, but were probably scratching their heads wondering what in the sam hill is going on.

          From 21:30 to 21:47 they were waiting, watching. Notice the tubing pressure didn’t go to zero when they started pumping, which is to be expected if you had seawater in the tubing and drilling mud in the annulus.

          Then at 21:47 all hell broke loose. Between 21:47 and 21:49 the tubing pressure shot up to almost 6000 psi, not 3500 psi as Braley said. At 21:48 fluid starts flowing out the annulus. At 21:49 transmission is lost.

          I’m racking my brain to try to figure out what could be going on downhole to cause all this.

          If you have any ideas, I as well as everyone else I’m sure would be interested to know. Maybe as I sleep on it overnight it will come to me.

          1. Glenn Stehle

            Whoops. Should have been “Notice the tubing pressure didn’t go to zero when they stopped pumping, which is to be expected if you had seawater in the tubing and drilling mud in the annulus.”

          2. Glenn Stehle

            Gosh, can we try this again and try to get it right. It should have been “Notice the standpipe pressure didn’t go to zero when they stopped pumping, which is to be expected if you had seawater in the drillpipe and drilling mud in the annulus.”

          3. Glenn Stehle

            Bob S,

            I would just add that at 21:30 when they noticed they had a serious problem, regardless of whether they had figured out what was going on downhole or not, the appropriate response would have been to completely shut her down, and by that I mean close the pipe rams, close all annular BOPs, and close the safety valve in the drill pipe (if they had one installed). Did they do this? Did they try to close the blowout preventers and they malfunctioned?

            As it appears that everyone on that rig floor is now dead, we may never know the answers to these questions.

            The question that keeps haunting me is this: Where was the BP company man? In an extremely critical situation like this, he should have been on that floor too. Where was he? Where is he?

          4. Bob S

            I see at 21:46:30 they tried to start pumping again but almost immediately someone or something put a stop to that. I wonder if there is a BOP actuator log out there.

      2. fjf

        Quote
        If both electric and hydraulic communication between the rig floor and the blowout preventers was lost, there would have been no way to activate the blowout preventers.
        Endquote
        This rig is reported to have been equipped with a failsafe. Should the rig be forced off location and the connection with the well severed then this would have triggered the failsafe which would have caused the closure of the BOP.
        Normally a BOP will be equipped with a bank of high pressure cylinders and these are intended to have sufficent stored pressure to close the BOP.
        The BOP failure may be a consequence of:
        1) A malfunctionning or improperly maintained BOP.
        2) A BOP operating to spec which closed shears on a tool joint which it was unable to shear due to the additional metal surrounding the joint.
        3) A BOP operating to spec which closed shears but did not have sufficent power to perform the shear due to the hydraulic head at the sub-sea wellhead.
        If you have pistons operated by a cylinder holding pressure at 15,000 PSI at surface that 15,000 PSI will be less effective when it must act against the increased hydraulic head of the sub-sea environment. Offshore exploration has moved from water depths of 400 – 500 ft to water depths of almost a mile but I am not aware of any corresponding redesign of hardware in respect of that increased operating water depth.

        1. Glenn Stehle

          fjf,

          Q. This rig is reported to have been equipped with a failsafe. Should the rig be forced off location and the connection with the well severed then this would have triggered the failsafe which would have caused the closure of the BOP.
          A. This was discussed extensively during the hearing. As I stated above: “The blowout preventers are supposed to close automatically in the event that hydraulic communication between the rig floor and the blowout preventers is lost. However, as came out in the hearings, there are circumstances where that might not happen.”
          It is the loss of hydraulic pressure in the tubing connecting the blowout preventer to the drill ship that is supposed to automaatically supply the signal to acutate the shear rams. However, as was explained during the hearings, there are circumstances where this might not happen. In other words, the “failsafe” was not “failsafe.”

  5. skippy

    Bah…as an ex project mgr, it was death and destruction by spreadsheet, executive asset, efficiency in the name of profit enhancement buffoonery. It aways catches up with you sooner or later and everyone just hopes its not them when it happens.

    BTW how many bodies are buried in all that steel, concrete and glass in dubai…eh…but their not nationals or Americans…hell they won’t even get a plaque in the name of sacrifice.

    Skippy…ask the shuttle crews about management efficancy with regards to space flight.

    1. MarcoPolo

      Sloppy, the project managers may have their sheetsspread, but the guys in coveralls usually have a pretty good eye for what they’re doing. Richard’s observation from above notwithstanding.

        1. skippy

          MarcoPolo,

          Having…been there done that with regards to building civil, industrial, CRE and RE projects, the starting point for all this calamity always begins with poor estimation, pre-planing, and execution, by the white shirts.

          Over the last 20 years we have actually gone backwards, every thing is cut to the bone and CAD induced high tolerance (.5mm to micron tolorance builds) are very much like the market problem. Too much complexity with shared load over to many parts, of low individual carry capacity (cascade failure).

          Private school gym in my area has exposed RHS 600mm (at least 200 members) with a 4 bolt pattern, 1 out of 5 bolts is not even hand tight, let alone the rest torqued properly, its been that way for 5 years now.

          Repeat this simple observation ad infinity.

          No one signs their work any more, Mgrs are just the fall guys for executives, as they play bullet magnet for failure, throw themselves in front of their white shirt lords.

          Skippy…how many blueprint Rev. does it take to get a civil or industrial project done…um usually 10 to 20, think about that, added layers of wrong piled up to the sky.

  6. jdmckay

    Wow!!! WSJ points 3) on are very, very damning. It it plays out as suggested there, no wonder BP execs so tight lipped: that would suggest to me strong likelihood of major criminal liability, maybe murder.

    It’s just this kind of stuff that makes me so nervous about a non-regulated nuke power industry: eg. when the $$’s begin to flow, the white shirts & ties morph into dangerous people, often many times removed from their original purpose.

    IMO, this reflects culture. And that culture is similar to black hole, out of sight, non-regulated financial malfeasance that brought global economy to it’s knees, enabled by conditions I mention above.

    Moral hazards everywhere.

  7. emca

    I can’t understand why the go-ahead was given, given negative test results. Who gave the ok to finish operations? What was the motive? If the original test was non-destructive, why didn’t the crew wait before pulling the plug and run the hanger/seal test again the next day?

    Your observations on the integrity of persons within the industry is apt. Don’t know what the final verdict will be in this case (although at the least, its looking as though some very poor decisions by management were made), but in finance (now), oil as in other industries or human activities where the repercussions of failure are so far reaching, the challenge always is, that those people looking beyond individual gain need to be in a position to make the final call.

    1. Glenn Stehle

      emca,

      Q. I can’t understand why the go-ahead was given, given negative test results. Who gave the ok to finish operations?
      A. No one seems to know. Waxman, unsuccessfully, tried to find out. Please refer to Waxman’s round two of questioning, which begins at minute 9:55 on Part II of the hearings (from above link provided by Usual Suspect). Someone provided Waxman with a copy of the written well procedure. In the event the negative test failed, the crew was to suspend operations and notify Houston. McKay (the BP witness) feigned ignorance, said he knew nothing.

      Q. What was the motive?
      A. I don’t know.

      Q. If the original test was non-destructive, why didn’t the crew wait before pulling the plug and run the hanger/seal test again the next day?
      A. If the seal assembly hadn’t sealed properly, it wouldn’t be a thing of simply waiting 24 hours and testing again, it would have to be fixed.

      1. fjf

        Somebody should subpoena all communications between the rig and Houston.
        I suspect the BP representative died on the drillfloor.
        My hunch is that the claim will be made that he should have contacted Houston as per SOP but that he did not and went ahead giving direction on his own.
        In almost all accident investigations I have seen the impulse is to lay blame at the feet of the dead.

        1. Glenn Stehle

          fjf,

          It looks like no BP personnel were killed:

          From Roughneckcity.com

          “We honor these men here
          •Toolpusher- Jayson Anderson
          •Driller- Dewey Revette
          •Asst. Driller- Donald Clark
          •Asst. Driller- Stephen Curtis
          •Crane Operator-Dale Burkeen
          •Derrickhand- Roy Kemp
          •Floorhand- Karl Kleppinger
          •Floorhand – Shane Roshto
          •Floorhand- Adam Weise
          •MI Swaco-Gordon Jones
          •MI Swaco-Blair Manuel”
          http://www.roughneckcity.com/Transocean_Horizon.html

          1. fjf

            It is strange that the company man has not been called to testify. He has immediate operational responsibility for the conduct of well operations and would normally have been notified as soon as problems were encountered. Given the list of deceased it looks likely the push was attending to problems up on the floor. So where was the company man?

  8. Anonymous Jones

    Great article, information and analysis. This is another reason why this site is so great.

  9. VietnamVet

    “When I first broke out in the oilfield in 1974, I saw quite a bit of state and federal inspectors. But over the years, they slowly disappeared to the point where it was a rare occurrence to see one.”

    In a nutshell this description defines the last 30 years in America. In response to the draft and a never ending war which led to a revolt against big government; Jimmy Carter’s Deregulation, The Regan Revolution, and Bill Clinton’s Reinventing Government have resulted in a federal government run by corporate interests.

    In today’s America, we have two unwinnable wars that will never end, a financial system loaded with toxic debt, an electrical power grid that fails for hours for no obvious reason, regional airline system with under paid and overworked pilots, overtopped levies, a continuous deep sea oil well blow out, and government that does not give a damn about its citizens.

    1. Glenn Stehle

      Vietnam Vet,

      We’re getting a little off the subject here, because the focus of this post was to be the technical aspects.

      But if one is interested in more human aspects, I highly recommend listenting to Braley’s second round of questioning which begins at minute 23:00 on Part II of the hearing. It is an example of corporate greed and callousness at its very worst.

  10. K.

    Thanks Glen! That was very informative and your expert opinion is greatly appreciated. It’s amazing to contrast the blog/amateur reporting ( generally of great depth and insight ) to the mainstream reporting on this issue ( such as the News Hours reporting on the hearings yesterday ).

  11. vlade

    Glen (&Yves & commenters), thanks for proving me wrong on the rational debate on this subject.
    This is exactly what we need – to figure out what happened, how it happened and what can we do to prevent it from happening again.
    It sounds to me that all parties engaged were guilty to one degree or another, and it will be interesting to follow how the blame will be apportioned.

    If BP contrary to its own procedures wanted to go on despite the problems, it’s clearly responsible for the original explosion and the deaths caused there – regardless of whether Hburt did a shoddy job or not.

    If the BOP was piece of unmaintained cr*p, Transocean is responsible for the resulting spill – at least my understanding is that it was their piece of kit and they were responsible for making sure it worked as advertised, was able to perform the job of cutting the riser and having a working dead-man switch.

    I’m amazed that apart from dead-man switch all the methods of activating BOP are from the drilling ship. Indeed, as I saw somewhere I am amazed that BOP can be used if it has 260 different failure modes – it doesn’t sound to me as a reasonably well designed safety device.

    1. fjf

      The operator of the well bears full legal liabilty for all aspects of the operation including all aspects performed by sub-contractors such as Transocean and Halliburton. A clause assigning such liability is inserted in each contract; the operator accepts full liability as all work is performed under operator direction and is subject to operator approval.

      1. skippy

        Jargon for this paradigm is “do you want the job or not” hence all your other contracts with us are up for renewal or other wise.

        1. aet

          Joint & several liability: they are ALL on the hhok, as far as we are concerned: let them fight it out amongst themselves as to how to split the bill.
          But the bill must be paid in full.

          1. Skippy

            Concur…’Duty of care’, whence informed or actuated, responsibility/liability commences.

    2. aet

      Each are on the hook for the whole amount: we do not care how they split the bill amongst themselves – that is their business, not ours.

      1. aet

        In the restaurants I frequent, the bill is for the whole table, not apportioned amongst the diners: each who dined is liable for the entire amount.
        Or had Congress decreed otherwise for their oil co frinds: that only the poorest corp is liable for the whole amount?

  12. jdmckay

    Another good article/discussion on this… thanks a lot Glenn. Really appreciate your returning to make detailed comments/responses.

    I didn’t see the hearings live, watched ‘em last night as result of your posting here. Thing that riled me… the repubs on that panel seemed much more intent upon CYA’ing for the industry than acknowleding severity & very apparent malfeasance in this accident.

    Seems obvious to me, if US is going to recover economically in strong fashion, somehow that recovery needs to be built upon cultural bedrock which understands that technology is driving force in so much, and that said technology needs to operate on it’s own principled foundations w/out regard to diluting those foundations by white shirts who only know $$ signs.

    You can’t measure integrity in $$.

  13. David

    I have no idea if this will be posted, but here are my thoughts and a question. Were the mud engineers offloading displaced mud to an offshore vessel as this event was taking place? If so, that would have been a distraction to what was actually going on in surface volume.

    I believe that if at 2030 they had shut the well in on the bladder ram( Hydril? ) they would have been able to gauge the hole, figure out they had a problem with the bladder preventer (if this was the case), and determine if they were gaining pressure. It seems to me that the hole was hydrostatically balanced during the time they were observing, but that when they resumed circulating they were pumping up a gas bubble during that first “slight kick”. As they pumped and displaced mud the gas bubble originating from a compromised cement job began to expand and the reduced hydrostatic pressure caused the second kick. Now there are 2 gas kicks in the well with only sea water in the hole for much of the annulus. This was an impossible situation to control at this point.

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