US News Section

Monday, June 14, 2010 - 6:05pm

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.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 - 6:00pm

    A while ago I watched a documentary on building the sarcophagus which encloses the Chernobyl Nuclear disaster site. I have unsuccessfully, tried to find that documentary as my recollection runs that the radioactivity released from the Chernobyl site was only able to be stopped by burying the reactor core in sand, concrete and an outer shell called a sarcophagus.

    There seem to be parallels with the current Deepwater Horizon disaster in that we are witnessing once more that man is capable of unleashing uncontrollable forces in his pursuit of energy. Forces he had no contingency plan to deal with. Forces capable of devastating economies, destroying livelihoods and killing wildlife by contaminating the environment to such an extent that even people find they have to move away rather than suffer.

    That the only way that we have to fix it once that bottle is uncorked, was to just bury it in concrete. In Russia the reactor core was covered in sand then concrete. In the Gulf of Mexico disaster, first mud was tried, but once the relief wells are drilled, it will be likewise be filled with concrete.

    Based on this I went looking for supporting evidence to back up this initial premise, and am astounded by what I found.

    I came across a documentary in Russian, subtitled in same, but with a voice over in English, which appears to have been produced by National Geographic. The 6 videos run in total for about 45 minutes, but are the foundation around which I have built my comparison below, so really should be watched alongside the comparison.

    Deepwater, Chernobyl, a comparison of man made energy related disasters
    Disaster at Chernobyl part 1 of 6
    This documentary starts off with a ticking time bomb clock, like that used in episodes of 24 signifying impending disaster.

    Chernobyl : Reactor 4 was a new plant for Chernobyl which after passing a safety test it would be going into full production.
    Deepwater : This was a new well for BP which after being capped and passing a safety test, a different rig would float into place and the well would be in full production.

    Chernobyl : An argument between senior power station operations staff and an overseer on how the plant operation would proceed erupted leading up to the Chernobyl explosion
    Deepwater : An argument between Drilling operations staff and visiting BP overseers on how the plant operation would proceed leading up to the Deepwater Horizon explosion

    Chernobyl : Out of sight design flaws with the plant were unknown to power plant operations staff in the Chernobyl plant
    Deepwater : Out of sight well capping, cementing (and possibly design) flaws with the well/bore were unknown to drilling rig operations staff on the Deepwater Horizon

    Disaster at Chernobyl part 2 of 6
    Chernobyl : This particular test was being ordered from on high, by the owners of the plant, the Soviet Government
    Deepwater : This expedited change from a drilling rig to a production rig was being ordered from on high, by the owners of the well, BP

    Chernobyl : The argument by the non-operator in the control room with the operations staff, was won by him primarily as he saw no-one as his equal. Because he was a creature of the system. A party man. Who took shortcuts and risks when needed.
    Deepwater : The argument by the visiting BP staff with the rig staff was won by them. Was it because they saw no-one as their equals, were company men there taking risk when needed? Time will tell.

    Rig survivors: BP ordered shortcut on day of blast
    BP won the argument, said Doug Brown, the rig's chief mechanic. "He basically said, 'Well, this is how it's gonna be.' "

    Chernobyl : The Chief Engineer who ordered this test was home in bed
    Deepwater : The Management staff who ordered the expediting drill to production rig were ???

    Chernobyl : There were fishermen watching the plant from afar
    Deepwater : There were fishermen watching the rig from a distance

    This next video I have edited out a section as when I saw this I was shocked at the similarities. Please watch.

    Chernobyl : A fateful decision by management, against operations recommendation, to remove the control rods from the reactor eventually led to a condition where the engineers were no longer able to apply the brakes and control the reactor.
    Deepwater : A fateful decision by management, against operations recommendation, to prematurely remove mud from the drill string eventually led to a condition where the drilling engineers were no longer able to control the well pressure.

    Disaster at Chernobyl part 3 of 6
    Chernobyl : Following the argument being won by outside management, the procedure ordered to remove the rods is implemented, there is a period of calm where things return to normal. Although the operations staff did not like the procedure, the fear of getting sacked has encouraged them to fall into line.
    Deepwater : Following the argument being won by outside management, the procedure ordered to remove the mud is implemented, there is a period of calm where things return to normal. Although the operations staff did not like the procedure, the fear of getting sacked has encouraged them to fall into line.

    Once again if you are not following along or have not watched the entire video, please watch this clip as it is important.

    Chernobyl : There was a culture of negligence and coverup within the organization responsible for the power station. Shortcuts were taken, incorrect materials used, construction flaws introduced as a result. Safety came second it seemed for the management.
    Deepwater : Can one say that this has been demonstrated to be the case for BP?

    Chernobyl : Following years of getting away with treating safety as an option, the Chickens finally did come home to roost.
    Deepwater : Ditto for BP.

    Chernobyl : Unbeknownst to operations staff uncontrollable pressure is building at the bottom of the reactor as a result of the actions they were ordered to take in removing the control rods earlier.
    Deepwater : Unbeknownst to operations staff uncontrollable pressure is building at the bottom of the well as a result of the actions they were ordered to take in removing the mud earlier.

    Disaster at Chernobyl part 4 of 6
    Chernobyl : One reason for pushing the test was power station politics where the engineer who ordered it wished to see a success in order to impress the higher ups.
    Deepwater : Was a reason for rushing the changeover as a result of company politics where the person who ordered it wished to see a success in order to save money and time after so many costly delays on this well?

    Disaster at Chernobyl part 5 of 6
    Chernobyl : At the point where the operations staff realize this is out of control, they attempt an emergency shutdown only to have this fail due an unknown condition with rod insertion.
    Deepwater : At the point where the drill operations staff see a kick, the Blow out preventer should have initiated an emergency shutdown only to have this fail due to a number of prior issues with the BOP (rubber seal, flat battery, no acoustic switch, leaking hydraulics all have been mentioned)

    Chernobyl : The operator is genuinely shocked the emergency shutdown failed.
    Deepwater : A moments silence

    Chernobyl : Steam pressure cannot be contained. Like a volcanic pressure cooker. There is an initial blast followed by a secondary blast which blows the 1500 ton safety cap off the building. Massive plumes of radiation and gases begin emitting into the atmosphere with the stench of death.
    Deepwater : Well pressure cannot be contained. Like a volcano oil and gas rush to the surface. There is an initial release followed by a secondary blast when the gas finds an ignition source setting the rig on fire. After the rig sinks, massive plumes of oil and gas begin gushing into the ocean with the creep of slow death.

    Disaster at Chernobyl part 6 of 6

    First this

    Then This

    Chernobyl Plume

    Deepwater Plume

    There is probably a better video of the projected oil spill trajectory and please link if you know of one. But you can see the similarities.

    Containment planning for Chernobyl - reenactment

    What came from that containment planning eventually was a sarcophagus.

    Deepwater Horizon version
    5/8/10 Oil Leak Dome Pictures, Images and Photos

    What was known by management, but never given due consideration as happening again? Thus there was no contingency planned for this eventuality.
    Chernobyl : Sometime before Chernobyl it was witnessed at another of the Soviet Unions reactors at Ignalina, that insertion of the Boron Control rods caused a power spike at the moment they contacted the water. This information was not relayed to operators at Chernobyl.

    Deepwater : In August of last year a well started leaking uncontrollably in Australian waters, it could not be controlled for almost 3 months. Eventually after 5 tries to find the bore with a relief well, the rig caught fire, and finally it was capped.
    BP's Gulf Gusher, 'I've seen this movie before', 8 months ago

    Like the Soviets thought of Ignalina, American leaders believed another West Atlas could never happen again

    Mary Landrieu Minimized Potential For Spill And Impact Of Damage (VIDEO)
    You said it was the largest spill in Australia's history. It's true. It leaked 823,000 gallons of oil. As Mr. Cruickshank testified, it wouldn't even be allowed in this country because it doesn't stand up to our strict environmental rules.

    I mean, just the gallons are so minuscule compared to the benefits of U.S. strength and security, the benefits of job creation and energy security. So while there are risks associated with everything, I think you understand that they are quite, quite minimal.

    One final comment

    "I think in both a symbolic and a very real way, Chernobyl was the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union. I think in a symbolic way, the melt down and explosion was caused by all the inherent contradictions in the Soviet System. And therefore its a very good paradigm, a symbol of what was to happen."

    At some point will America take a long hard look at the lessons of the past and how they reflect on what has just happened?
    Will they make the right decisions to take steps to reduce the risk of this ever happening again? For if history is anything to go by, you can't keep repeating the same old habits and expect a different outcome.

    Is weakening the ability of those who have America's best interests at heart when it comes to preventing accidents like this by reducing the need for partaking in risky ventures, the right way forward?

    US Senate Set To Vote On Overturning EPA Greenhouse-Gas Rules

    That last comment made about Chernobyl is really up to Americans and whether their leaders can make decisions on energy which are in every American's best interests.

    Greenpeace video
    Chernobyl Surviving Disaster - BBC Documentary Part 1
    Chernobyl Surviving Disaster - BBC Documentary series Part 2
    Chernobyl Surviving Disaster - BBC Documentary Part 3

    Connecticut Man1
    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - 7:48pm

    I really want to know how we can possibly have an honest discourse on the subject of "don't ask, don't tell" when I have to stop and explain how a truly ignorant bigot like Rep. Ike Skelton is serving as a politician, never mind on the Armed Services Committee, to my 7 year old child?

    Of all the ridiculous rationalizations that we've seen peddled to justify opposing the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," this one takes the cake:

    The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Tuesday that he thought the military should keep its ban on openly gay service members in part because he did not want to open a national discussion about homosexuality. The chairman, Representative Ike Skelton, a conservative Missouri Democrat, said he thought the debate in Congress over the proposed repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy might force families to explain homosexuality to their children. “What do mommies and daddies say to their 7-year-old child?” Mr. Skelton asked reporters at a news media breakfast.

    Is this really how the freaking chairman of the House Armed Services Committee makes his decisions about military policy? On how it's going to play with the elementary school crowd?

    Stop hiding behind kids, Ike.

    Too many kids already have to witness enough hate these days... Don't make me have to explain YOUR PERSONAL PROBLEMS to my child, Ike.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 - 7:51pm

    Rig survivors: BP ordered shortcut on day of blast

    BP official wanted workers to replace heavy mud, used to keep the well's pressure down, with lighter seawater to help speed a process that was costing an estimated $750,000 a day and was already running five weeks late, rig survivors told CNN.

    BP won the argument, said Doug Brown, the rig's chief mechanic. "He basically said, 'Well, this is how it's gonna be.' "

    In the CNN interviews, the workers described a corporate culture of cutting staff and ignoring warning signs ahead of the blast. They said BP routinely cut corners and pushed ahead despite concerns about safety.

    Remember 60 minutes had the interview with Mike Williams where he suspected this was the case.

    Jed wrote about it here:

    60 Minutes: Despite damaged blowout preventer, BP cut corners immediately before explosion

    This is a corporate culture which has come about as a result of many, many years of focussing attention on managing the politics to eliminate protective controls and safety measures, rather than spending the money to do it right.

    At least two people have now implicated cutting corners and overruling the better judgment of operations management, let alone standard operating procedures, in order to try to (it appears) save time and money, as potentially contributing to the Deepwater Chernobyl disaster.

    Video @CNN here : "This is how it's going to be"

    I wonder how often BP say that to legislators :
    Lindsey Graham Will Vote Against His Own Climate Bill

    If they weren't right on the Deepwater Horizon, do you think they are going to be right with respect to energy and climate policy?

    I think it will be worth watching Anderson Cooper 360 as he interviews 5 rig survivors this evening.
    Program Note: On "AC360°," five survivors of the rig tell Anderson Cooper about the days leading up to the explosion. Watch "AC360°" at 10 ET Tuesday night, live from the Gulf.

    Connecticut Man1
    Sunday, May 23, 2010 - 5:45pm

    Financial Crisis Tracker
    Sourcewatch has developed a great widget to keep a running tally on what some call "The Great Recession".

    Below is their explanation of where the numbers come from and just in case you are shocked by that 4.71 TRILLION DOLLARS number in the Wall Street bailout section in there. (4.71 trillion dollars number is taken from at the time I wrote this post)

    From Sourcewatch:

    The Financial Crisis Tracker gives a monthly snapshot of housing foreclosures, unemployment rates and the total cost of the Wall Street bailout. The Tracker is presented in the form of a widget that can be downloaded to your webpage.

    The Foreclosure number is generated monthly by RealtyTrac, a private data source used by newspapers across America. The RealtyTrac data is released in the second week of the month for the previous month.

    The Unemployment number is generated by the U.S. Department of Labor and released on the first Friday of the month for the previous month. The larger DOL data set is rich with information about unemployment and underemployment in the U.S. economy.

    The Wall Street Bailout number is our original calculation of the total bailout expenditures to date. Our calculation was peer-reviewed by economists at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington D.C. Our table tallying all government bailout programs can be accessed here.

    And just so you know... There is still a lot that can and should be done in as far as forclosures since very few homes have actually been saved:

    Foreclosure filings were at historic highs in March -- 367,056 -- an increase of nearly 19 percent from the previous month, and the highest monthly total since 2005, according to RealtyTrac. Almost two years after the onset of the financial crisis with unemployment at historic highs, nothing is being done to put a stop to this on-going tragedy.

    Today, the Real Economy Project of the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) released an update of our Wall Street Bailout accounting that, unlike other bailout assessments, includes Federal Reserve loans. CMD finds that the Federal Reserve, the U.S. Treasury and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) combined have disbursed a total of $4.7 trillion on the bailout, of which $2 trillion is still outstanding.

    A Deeper Look at the Housing Issue