BP to blame in explosion, internal documents show

AP

The secret we all knew: BP cut corners days before platform explosion.

BP made a series of money-saving shortcuts and blunders that dramatically increased the danger of a destructive oil spill in a well that an engineer ominously described as a “nightmare” just six days before the blowout, according to documents released Monday that provide new insight into the causes of the disaster.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee released dozens of internal documents that outline several problems on the deep-sea rig in the days and weeks before the April 20 explosion that set in motion the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history. Investigators found that BP was badly behind schedule on the project and losing hundreds of thousands of dollars with each passing day, and responded by cutting corners in the well design, cementing and drilling mud efforts and the installation of key safety devices.

“Time after time, it appears that BP made decisions that increased the risk of a blowout to save the company time or expense. If this is what happened, BP’s carelessness and complacency have inflicted a heavy toll on the Gulf, its inhabitants, and the workers on the rig,” said Democratic Reps. Henry A. Waxman and Bart Stupak.

The missteps emerged on the same day that President Barack Obama made his fourth visit to the Gulf, where he sought to assure beleaguered residents that the government will “leave the Gulf Coast in better shape than it was before.”

Obama’s two-day trip to Mississippi, Alabama and Florida represents his latest attempt to persevere through a crisis that has served as an important early test of his presidency. The visit coincides with a national address from the Oval Office on Tuesday night in which he will announce new steps to restore the Gulf Coast ecosystem, according to a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to upstage the president’s announcements.

“I can’t promise folks … that the oil will be cleaned up overnight. It will not be,” Obama said after encouraging workers in hard hats as they hosed off and repaired oil-blocking boom. “It’s going to be painful for a lot of folks.”

But, he said, “things are going to return to normal.”

The breached well has dumped as much as 114 million gallons of oil into the Gulf under the worst-case scenario described by scientists — a rate of more than 2 million a day. BP has collected 5.6 million gallons of oil through its latest containment cap on top of the well, or about 630,000 gallons per day.

But BP believes it will see considerable improvements in the next two weeks. The company said Monday that it could trap a maximum of roughly 2.2 million gallons of oil each day by the end of June as it deploys additional containment efforts, including a system that could start burning off vast quantities as early as Tuesday. That would more than triple the amount of oil it is currently capturing — and be a huge relief for those trying to keep it from hitting the shore.

“It would be a game changer,” said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Mark Boivin, deputy director for near-shore operations at a command center in Mobile. He works with a team that coordinates the efforts of roughly 80 skimming boats gathering oil off the coast.

Still, BP warned its containment efforts could face problems if hoses or pipes clog and engineers struggle to run the complicated collection system. Early efforts at the bottom of the Gulf failed to capture oil.

Meanwhile, congressional investigators have identified several mistakes by BP in the weeks leading up to the disaster as it fell way behind on drilling the well.

BP started drilling in October, only to have the rig damaged by Hurricane Ida in early November. The company switched to a new rig, the Deepwater Horizon, and resumed drilling on Feb. 6. The rig was 43 days late for its next drilling location by the time it exploded April 20, costing BP at least $500,000 each day it was overdue, congressional documents show.

As BP found itself in a frantic race against time to get the job done, engineers took several time-saving measures, according to congressional investigators.

In the design of the well, the company apparently chose a riskier option among two possibilities to provide a barrier to the flow of gas in space surrounding steel tubes in the well, documents and internal e-mails show. The decision saved BP $7 million to $10 million; the original cost estimate for the well was about $96 million.

In an e-mail, BP engineer Brian Morel told a fellow employee that the company is likely to make last-minute changes in the well.

“We could be running it in 2-3 days, so need a relative quick response. Sorry for the late notice, this has been nightmare well which has everyone all over the place,” Morel wrote.

The e-mail chain culminated with the following message by another worker: “This has been a crazy well for sure.”

BP also apparently rejected advice of a subcontractor, Halliburton Inc., in preparing for a cementing job to close up the well. BP rejected Halliburton’s recommendation to use 21 “centralizers” to make sure the casing ran down the center of the well bore. Instead, BP used six 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.”

The lawmakers also said BP also decided against a nine- to 12-hour procedure known as a “cement bond log” that would have tested the integrity of the cement. A team from Schlumberger, an oil services firm, was on board the rig, but BP sent the team home on a regularly scheduled helicopter flight the morning of April 20.

Less than 12 hours later, the rig exploded.

BP also failed to fully circulate drilling mud, a 12-hour procedure that could have helped detect gas pockets that later shot up the well and exploded on the drilling rig.

Asked about the details disclosed from the investigation, BP spokesman Mark Proegler said the company’s main focus right now is on the response and stopping the flow of oil. “It would be inappropriate for us to comment while an investigation is ongoing,” Proegler told AP. BP executives including CEO Tony Hayward will be questioned by Congress on Thursday.

The letter from Waxman and Stupak noted at least five questionable decisions BP made before the explosion, and was supplemented by 61 footnotes and dozens of documents.

“The common feature of these five decisions is that they posed a trade-off between cost and well safety,” said Waxman and Stupak. Waxman, D-Calif., chairs the energy panel while Stupak, D-Mich., heads a subcommittee on oversight and investigations.

Breaking News: Japan May Default says Japanese Prime Minister

Business Insider

When he was Japan’s finance minister, Naoto Kan advocated loose monetary policy to end two decades of deflation.

But since his sudden promotion to prime minister, Kan has been crying out about public debt levels. Today, he even used the signal word for austerity: Greece.

“Our country’s outstanding public debt is huge. Our public finances have become the worst of any developed country. We cannot sustain public finance that overly relies on issuing bonds. As we can see from the eurozone confusion that started in Greece, there is a risk of default if growing public debt is neglected and trust lost in the bond market.

No one knows if he can pull off the mythical trick of reducing government spending while stimulating private sector spending. Kan may be overplaying the similarity Greece to get people behind fiscal reform, a Credit Suisse Japan analyst tells The Guardian.

We are the next Greece has been the signal phrase for fiscal reform in California, Hungary, and America.

BP’s Top Kill Procedure fails as Coast Guard Blocks Media Access

Natural News

BP officials have announced today that the “top kill” effort to stop the Gulf oil leak has failed. Unanticipated problems doomed the project, which involved trying to pump tens of thousands of gallons of mud, shredded rubber tires and other “junk” into the hole to try to halt the outflow of oil.

At 6pm Saturday evening, BP officials announced the “top kill” effort had failed and now they were moving on to another plan (more below).

I am on site at the Gulf Coast right now, and while I haven’t reached the areas where oil is washing up on the beaches, I’m learning some interesting information nonetheless. In particular, finding a hotel room anywhere near New Orleans has become virtually impossible, as BP has rented out virtually every available hotel room from St. Charles, Louisiana all the way to Pensacola, Florida. (I am currently staying in a fleabag hotel that miraculously has internet access…)

But it raises the question: Where are all these people? I haven’t seen a single BP person anywhere, and I was out on some beaches today filming editorial segments for NaturalNews. I did see some small watercraft laying out protective barriers, but I didn’t see any BP people anywhere.

I’ll keep you posted on what we find tomorrow as we approach the beaches to the East of New Orleans.

Expect more oil for the next 10 weeks

Now that the top kill effort has failed, it means oil will keep spewing into the Gulf of Mexico until at least August. That’s when two “pressure release” wells are expected to be completed. The purpose of these two wells is to siphon off the oil from underneath the ocean bed, thereby releasing the pressure that’s currently pushing crude oil out of the existing hole under the doomed Deepwater Horizon rig.

This “plan C” effort remains extremely risky, of course. There’s no guarantee it will work at all. And if it fails, this “volcano of oil” could continue to pollute the Earth’s oceans for years. This could, in fact, be the global killer event I warned about in an earlier story about this BP oil spill. (http://www.naturalnews.com/028805_G…)

We could be looking at a global-scale environmental catastrophe that destroys virtually all marine life in the Gulf of Mexico and takes a century to fully recover. It’s really that bad. If they can’t stop this volcano of oil in the next week, we could be looking at the single most destructive environmental catastrophe ever to strike our planet since the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs.

Get ready for more chemicals

In the mean time, now that the top kill effort has failed, BP has announced it is resuming the spraying of chemical dispersants into the massive oil plumes that remain deep under the surface of the Gulf of Mexico water. This means more chemicals that will kill more forms of marine life throughout the Gulf.

But it’s not just aquatic life that’s being threatened by these chemicals: BP workers are increasingly being sent to the hospital complaining of symptoms like vomiting, dizziness, difficult breathing and others. The obvious cause of such symptoms is the huge amount of crude oil bubbling up to the surface (some of which evaporates into the air) along with the massive injection of chemical dispersants into the waters (some of which also evaporates). CNN is reporting that BP claims it is monitoring air quality, but so far BP has not gone public with any air quality test results.

None of the cleanup workers have been outfitted with chemical masks that might protect them from the volatile chemicals now present in the Gulf waters. Yet CNN is reporting that the warning label on the chemical product made by NALCO states: “Avoid breathing vapor.”

The EPA, meanwhile, remains silent on this whole issue. Remember: It is the EPA that ordered BP to stop using its selected brand of chemical dispersant, but BP utterly ignored the EPA and continues to dump that very same chemical into the Gulf of Mexico right now.

A chemical attack on America

What we are watching here, folks, is very nearly a chemical attack on America by BP and the oil industry. It’s hard to say what’s worse: The oil or the chemical dispersants. In fact, no one knows the answer to that question, and it can’t even be studied by scientists because the disaster keeps growing by the day.

This is one environmental catastrophe that just keeps getting worse, and the cost to the marine ecosystem is incalculable. And that’s not to even mention the economic cost to the region and all the people who depend on life in the Gulf of Mexico for their own livelihoods. Their lives are now being destroyed by this oil drilling catastrophe.

If there’s one lesson that comes from all this, it is a reminder of the immense value Mother Nature provides us each and every day at no charge. The VALUE of a healthy ocean is incalculable. And the COST of killing it may be more than what human civilization can bear.

I suppose this resolves the whole question of what’s more important: The environment or the economy? As we’re rudely discovering today, the economy cannot exist without protecting the environment first.