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Report blames BP decisions for well disaster

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By The Staff

It was a series of decisions by BP, Transocean and Halliburton that caused the April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon explosion, loss of 11 lives, and resulting oil spill according to a final investigative report released Wednesday.

While the oil spill never came closer than 240 miles from Cedar Key, it did pose a threat to the region’s aquaculture industry had the spill migrated to the area. 

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement /U.S. Coast Guard Joint Investigation Team  released its final investigative report which consists of two volumes covering the areas of investigation under the jurisdiction of the Coast Guard and the the areas of the investigation under BOEMRE jurisdiction. The release also includes the Final Action Memo from Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp.

The JIT details evidence developed during the investigation and concludes that BP, Transocean and Halliburton’s conduct in connection with the Deepwater Horizon disaster violated a number of federal offshore safety regulations under BOEMRE’s jurisdiction.

“As detailed in this Report, the blowout at the Macondo well on April 20, 2010 was the result of a series of decisions that increased risk and a number of actions that failed to fully consider or mitigate those risks.

While it is not possible to discern which precise combination of these decisions and actions set the blowout in motion, it is clear that increased vigilance and awareness by BP, Transocean and Halliburton personnel at critical junctures during operations at the Macondo well would have reduced the likelihood of the blowout occurring,” the Bureau concluded in the report.

But it had more to say about BP’s role in the disaster that some sources say spilled about 4.9 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico before it was capped on July 15, 2010.

“BP well designers set the casing in a location that created additional risks of hydrocarbon influx. Even knowing this, BP did not set additional cement or mechanical barriers in the well. BP made two additional significant decisions that further increased risks – first, it decided to have the Deepwater Horizon crew install a lock-down sleeve as part of the temporary abandonment procedure.

“Second, BP decided to use a lost circulation material as spacer, which risked clogging lines used for well integrity tests. BP personnel and Transocean personnel failed to conduct an accurate negative test to assess the integrity of the production casing cement job.

The Deepwater Horizon rig crew, therefore, performed temporary abandonment procedures while unaware of the failed cement job beneath them and the looming influx of hydrocarbons. Unfortunately, the rig crew then limited its kick detection abilities by deciding to bypass the Sperry Sun flow meter when displacing fluid from the well overboard.”

The conclusion says the crew missed signs of the kickback and was delayed in reacting to the gusher.

Once the flow reached the rig, the equipment “could not handle the volume of the blowout and explosions followed. Additionally, forensic analysis by DNV strongly suggests that by the time a crew member on the bridge activated the emergency disconnect system, the explosions had damaged the Deepwater Horizon’s multiplex cable and hydraulic lines, which rendered inoperable the BOP stack’s blind shear rams.

The force of the blowout, and possibly the force from drill pipe in the riser, buckled the drill pipe and placed it in a position where it could not be completely sheared by the blind shear ram blades. As a result, the blind shear ram, when activated on either April 20 or April 22, could not shear the drill pipe and seal the wellbore. Flow from the Macondo well continued for 87 days after the blowout, spewing almost 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.”

Both the Coast Guard and the Bureau reports make recommendations on changes to drilling and safety practices, including well design —particularly for high flow potential wells, well integrity testing, kick detection and response, rig configuration, blowout preventers, and remotely operated vehicles.

Some changes have already been put in place strengthening requirements for everything from well design and workplace safety to corporate accountability. 

To read the full report go to: deepwaterinvestigation.com/go/doc/3043/1193483/