The Five Flawed Choices of the Oilpocalypse?

Just came across a post by emptywheel at Firedoglake who has put up a letter the Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, Henry Waxman has written to BP regarding the decisions made by BP leading up to the April 20 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

BP’s Well Failure Due to Effort to Save $10 Million?

It lays out five choices which BP appear to have made which, had they taken a different route, one which did not appear to be focused on saving time and money alone, the destruction in the Gulf of Mexico may not have happened.

From Chairman Henry Waxman's letter to BP' Tony Hayward :

Well Design. On April 19, one day before the blowout, BP installed the final section of steel tubing in the well. BP had a choice of two primary options: it could lower a fu ll string of “casing” from the top of the wellhead to the bottom of the well, or it could hang a ” liner” from the lower end of the casing already in the well and install a “tieback” on top of the liner. The liner-tieback option would have taken extra time and was more expensive, but it would have been safer because it provided more barriers to the flow of gas up the annul ar space surrounding these steel tubes. A BP plan review prepared in mid-April recommended against the full string of casing because it would create “an open annulus to the wellhead” and make the seal assembly at the wellhead the “only barrier” to gas flow if the cement job failed. Despite this and other warnings, BP chose the more risky casing option, apparently because the liner option would have cost $7 to $10 million more and taken longer.

Centralizers. When the final string of casing was installed, one key chall enge was making sure the casing ran down the center of the well bore. As the American Petroleum Institute’s recommended practices explain, if the casing is not centered, “it is difficult, if not impossible, to displace mud effectively from the narrow side of the annulus,” resulting in a failed cement job. Halliburton, the contractor hired by BP to cement the well, warned BP that the well could have a “SEVERE gas flow problem” if BP lowered the final string of casing with only six centralizers instead of the 21 recommended by Halliburton. BP rejected Halliburton’s advice to use additional centralizers. In an e-mail on April 16, a BP official involved in the decision explained: ” it will take 10 hours to install them . .. . I do not like this.” Later that day, another official recognized the risks of proceeding with insufficient centralizers but commented: “who cares, it’s done, end of story, will probably be fine.”

Cement Bond Log. BP’s mid-April plan review predicted cement failure, stating “Cement simulations indicate it is unlikely to be a successful cement job due to formation breakdown.” Despite this warning and Halliburton’s prediction of severe gas flow problems, BP did not run a 9- to 12-hour procedure called a cement bond log to assess the integrity of the cement sea l. BP had a crew from Schlumberger on the rig on the morning of April 20 for the purpose of running a cement bond log, but they departed after BP told them their services were not needed. An independent expert consulted by the Committee called this decision “horribly negligent.”

Mud Circulation. In exploratory operations like the Macondo well, wells are generally filled with weighted mud during the drilling process. The American Petroleum Institute (API) recommends that oil companies fully circulate the drilling mud in the well from the bottom to the top before commencing the cementing process. Circulating the mud in the Macondo well could have taken as long as 12 hours, but it would have allowed workers on the rig to test the mud for gas influxes, to safely remove any pockets of gas, and to eliminate debris and condition the mud so as to prevent contamination of the cement. BP decided to forego this safety step and conduct only a partial circulation of the drilling mud befo re the cement job.

Lockdown Sleeve. Because BP elected to use just a single string of casing, the Macondo well had just two barriers to gas flow up the annular space around the final string of casing: the cement at the bottom of the well and the seal at the wellhead on the sea floor. The decision to use insufficient centralizers created a significant risk that the cement job would channel and fail, while the decision not to run a cement bond log denied BP the opportunity to assess the status of the cement job. These decisions would appear to make it crucial to ensure the integrity of the seal assembly that was the remaining barrier against an influx of hydrocarbons. Yet, BP did not deploy the casing hanger lockdown sleeve that would have prevented the seal from being blown out from below.

Link to Supporting documentation from Chairman Waxman's site.

  • Letter to Tony Hayward, CEO, BP
  • BP - Application for Bypass
  • BP Email from MMS approving permit revisions, April 16, 2010
  • BP Email calling Macondo a nightmare well, April 14, 2010
  • BP Email Exchange about Centralizers, April 16, 2010
  • BP Email Exchange on Transporting Centralizers, April 16, 2010
  • BP Email on Updated Lockdown Sleeve Procedure, April 16, 2010
  • BP - Daily Operations Report, April 18, 2010
  • BP - Drilling & Completions MOC Initiate
  • BP Email - Long string saves time, March 25, 2010
  • BP Email - String costs less than tieback, March 30, 2010
  • BP - Production Casing & TA Options-Liner Preferred Long Version
  • BP - Production Casing & TA Options-Liner Preferred Short Version
  • BP - Production Casing TA Options-String Again Best Option
  • Halliburton Email about Rearranging Centralizers, April 15, 2010
  • Halliburton - Energy and Commerce Committee Staff Briefing, June 3, 2010
  • Halliburton - Production Casing Design Report, April 15, 2010 (minor)
  • Halliburton - Production Casing Design Report, April 15, 2010 (moderate)
  • Halliburton - Production Casing Design Report, April 18, 2010 (severe)
  • Macondo Prospect Well Information
  • BP-Macondo Well Casing Production Operations
  • Schlumberger Mississippi Canyon Block 252 Timeline
  • Schlumberger - Cost of Completing Cement Bond Log v. Canceled Contingency
  • Transocean Internal Investigation Update Interim Report, June 8, 2010
  • So it appears we have a situation where the plan they had to cement the bore was deemed inadequate yet they went ahead regardless.
    Where their advice on how many centralizers from the contractor doing the cement work was deemed inadequate, yet they rejected these concerns and went ahead regardless.
    Where normal procedure to conduct a cement bond log was abandoned.
    Where BP ignored the American Petroleum Institutes recommendation on circulating mud prior to cementing the bore.
    When working at a much deeper well depth, BP decided to go with the lesser of designs for the well string casing.

    Welcome to the age where poor decisions based on greed and unsafe speed appears to be the norm.

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