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.

British Petroleum Disaster: An Insider’s Account

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | JUNE 13, 2010

As The Real Agenda has reported, the Gulf of Mexico’s oil spill goes beyond a few thousand gallons a day and chemical dispersants.

Oil industry insiders who have revealed first-hand information that could make the manliest human being tremble like jello.  The most prominent of these insiders, Pastor Lindsey Williams, who worked closely with heads of the oil industry for several years, appeared on talk radio to share his testimony on what is really going on in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  The details are neither easy nor pleasant to understand.

Williams’ account begins with what a former oil industry CEO told him with regard to the Deep Water Horizon disaster.  According to him, the reason for the oil disaster was that BP may have drilled into something known as a batholith, which is a gigantic well usually filled with magma, but that this time seemed to be full of crude.  After drilling into the chamber, the pressure was so high that the Deepwater Horizon’s platform and its structure, weren’t able to withstand it causing the explosion and the consequent disaster.  Why didn’t the platform sustain the pressure generated from the crude coming out?  Pressures experienced after drilling an oil well vary, but maximum numbers usually hit 1500 pounds of pressure per square inch.  In the case of the oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, the pressure reached up to 70,000 pounds of natural pressure per square inch.  Williams said: “No structure built by man could have withstood such force.”  Does this mean the explosion was an accident?  Not necessarily.  As we have reported, Deepwater Horizon workers said in their testimony that BP’s heads knew of the lack of capacity the platform had to take on the well’s pressure, but forced the workers to continue the drilling process.  He added that the kind of oil contained in the gigantic well is not of the fossil type, but of another one known as Abiotic oil.  This oil is produced during chemical processes, deep down into the Earth’s core.  Williams said some of the most important oil deposits in the world are replenishing themselves through this process and therefore the peak oil idea is false.  On this side topic, Pastor Williams is supported by what can be called the Russian oil rush.  In the last few years, Russia has dug at least three oil wells such as the one apparently found in the Gulf of Mexico down to depths of 20,000 to 30,000 feet into the ground.  Other projects of the sort are located closer to the United States than anyone could think.  Just as Russia dug such deep wells on land, the United States granted BP permission to dig a 5,000 feet deep well in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  Big mistake says Williams.  The fact the drilling was being done from a floating platform, only stabilized by propellers, may have played a determinant role on what happened next.

During the interview, Williams said that two sources from British Petroleum confirmed that not only had the company gone down 5,000 feet to the sea floor through sea water, but had drilled 25,000 feet into the sea bed down to the Earth’s crust.  His sources also confirmed that 3 hours before the explosion, BP had sent executives, geologists and other personnel to the region in order to witnessed what the result of the drilling would be.  Williams emphasized that the explosion was not done on purpose, but that it was all an accident due to the unexpected pressure that came together with the abiotic oil.  “The pressure was so great that no human manufactured device could have stopped the flow,” said Williams.  He also confirmed through his BP sources the allegation that BP high-ups collaborated in a way with the accident.  “A platform worker told the foreman that the fail safe valve was broken and needed to be replaced, but the foreman replied there was no time for that.”

Another of Mr. Williams’ revelations was that the leak of crude oil from the sea bed of the Gulf of Mexico is not spewing thousands or hundreds of thousands of gallons a day, but millions of gallons a day.  He said his oil industry source confirm what other independent sources have claimed: “that the oil spill is letting out between 4 and 5 million gallons of crude a day.”  The explosion the Pastor said during an interview on the Alex Jones Show, caused the sea bed to turn unstable, and that is why there are more than a few leaks down there.  Williams was told there were oil leaks as far as 20 miles away from the location where the Deepwater Horizon structure once stood.  He was fast to address one of the options some people have suggested as a solution to end the oil leak: To nuke the place in order to stop the crude from coming into the Gulf’s waters.  He said his source confessed this may be the only option to stop the disaster once and for all, but that given the degree of difficulty of such operation, there was a big enough chance the explosion of a nuclear device would make the problem worse.  If not done correctly and precisely, the explosion could further destabilize the well and cause a major collapse that would release greater amounts of oil which could not be stopped.

How does Mr. Williams knows this?  As mentioned before, his source, a former oil industry Chief Executive Officer, provided him with this and other information for the past few years.  Why should we believe what he says?  His track record has been immaculate so far.  Pastor Williams appeared on radio shows several times detailing -beforehand- the rise and fall of oil prices, the devaluation of the dollar, the food crisis, and the fake oil scarcity agenda the oil industry has planted in the public’s mind.  All of this before it happened.

birds

Marine life, birds and humans will have to live with the consequences of the spill for years to come.

One of the questions raised during the interview was what else besides the oil is coming out of the oil gushers?  At the beginning of the disaster, it was thought the oil was accompanied by mud only, but now, just as the numbers of the leak have changed, the account of what is flowing into the ocean along with the crude has also changed.  It seems the oil leak is not the biggest problem at hand.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed the existence of multiple plumes on the sea floor and these very plumes are releasing toxic gases that are ultimately the greatest danger for marine and human life.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed NOAA’s findings after carrying out independent tests of the underwater plumes.

According to the EPA report, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s)are being emitted from the bottom of the ocean in amounts never seen before.  Below is the transcript of the report where it cites the VOC’s present, the levels at which they are safe for humans, and the amounts that were detected in the studies the EPA performed.  The

1. Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) emitted at a rate of 1,200 parts per billion(ppb) into the water and the air afterwards, once it surfaces.  Levels considered “safe” for humans round 5-10 ppb;

2. Benzene (C6H6) emitted at a rate of 3,000 ppb.  Human “safe” levels are said to be around 0-4 ppb

3. Methylene Chloride or dichloromethane CH2Cl2, emitted at a rate of 3,400 ppb.  Human tolerance is established to levels below 61 ppb.

Other gases cited during the interview as being emitted from the spill include vanadium, which according to our research is, in its pure form, a greyish silvery, soft and ductile metal used as an alloy in the manufacturing of cars.  According to the Mineral Information Institute, “it is found in magnetite (iron oxide) deposits that are also very rich in the element titanium. It is also found in bauxite (aluminum ore), rocks with high concentrations of phosphorous-containing minerals, and sandstones that have high uranium content.” It has 2 isotopes that occur naturally.  One of the isotopes is stable and one is radioactive.

The emission of these gases into the water and later into the air people breathe indeed confirms a nefarious slow-paced genocide of marine life and human life.  If exposure to low levels of benzene causes dizziness, and organ failure, imagine what it is doing and what it will do to people exposed to it at the concentration levels read by the studies made by the EPA.  Deformities, cancer, respiratory problems are just a few of the problems people will face in the short and long run due to exposure to benzene, hydrogen sulfide, methylene chloride and who knows what else is coming out of deep beneath the sea floor.  Suddenly, the disaster seems to move from ecological and marine  to the very survival of the people who leave on the coast of Louisiana, Florida, and possibly the whole East Coast of the United States.

To all this we can add, as the media has reported, that Goldman Sachs sold 44 percent of its BP stock just three days before the explosion at the Deepwater Horizon platform.  Additionally, Tony Hayward -BP’s CEO- also sold a third of his own shares right before the accident occurred for a total of 1.4 million pounds.  In the meantime, fishers and other workers who are now helping with the cleaning efforts reported sickness after being in and on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  As channel 6, WSDU, reported, workers are experiencing illness, strong stomachache, respiratory problems, coughing and other symptoms of intoxication due to the inhalation of fumes from both the chemicals and the gases emanating from the waters.

BP’s Robert Kaluza pleads fifth amendment to avoid testifying

by Luis R. Miranda
The Real Agenda
May 17, 2010

One of the ‘company men’ who were on the Deepwater Horizon platform before the explosion occurred decided not to testify in one of the hearings being held as part of the investigation conducted after the disaster.  Robert Kaluza “declined to testify in front of a federal panel investigating the deadly oil rig blowout,” reports the Miami Herald.  Kaluza told the U.S Coast Guard he was invoking his constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination.

There can be only one reason why Mr. Kaluza decided not to testify and that is there may be a chance of criminal liability against him and BP.  As we reported yesterday, a witness has testified BP’s “company men” decided to fill the well with salt water instead of mud as then cement, which is the standard procedure.  The April 20 explosion killed 11 workers and the leak continues to spew oil up to today, more than a month later after the explosion.  Although the government said initially the spill was releasing around 210,000 gallons a day, scientists have found it could more than 3 million gallons a day.

Although the government’s hearing in Louisiana failed to determine the cause of the explosion, if one goes by the testimony from Truitt Crawford, it is clear as he explained that the explosion occurred because BP decided to save money by ignoring warning signs -unusual pressure and fluid readings on the rig — and to remove heavy drilling fluid from the well and replacing it with lighter-weight seawater that was unable to prevent gas from surging to the surface and exploding.

Platform workers testified that previous to the explosion, they heard a verbal fight over the decision to ‘take shortcuts’.  The workers say the argument was of the kind commonly experienced when multiple parties involved in offshore operations cannot agree on how things should be ran.  The consequence of that disagreement was the resulting deadly explosion.

The Herald reports that one employee who was worked for Transocean, warned they would have to rely on the structure’s blowout preventer if they went the way BP’s ‘company men’ wanted to go.  “He pretty much grumbled, ‘Well, I guess that’s what we have those pinchers for,” the rig’s chief mechanic, Doug Brown, said of Jimmy Harrell, the top Transocean official on the rig.  The word “Pinchers” probably referred to the shear rams in the blowout preventers, the tools of last resort used to stop the explosion.

Decisions related to the drilling process were in the hands of BP, and sworn testimony by Doug Brown included a quote from a BP high up who ultimately said that: “This is how it’s going to be.”  He ignored the warning signs from the mechanism as well as those from the platform’s crew and let the explosion happen.  During the hearing, Brown was asked if he remembered the name of the BP official who made the decision, but he said he could not remember it.

Robert Kaluza’s attorneys, Shaun Clarke and David Gerger, came out in defense of their client and defined him as a “dedicated, hard-working, conscientious man” whose 35 year experience working in oil fields would have been enough not to do anything wrong. He “did no wrong on the Deepwater Horizon.”  Another BP official, DOnald Vidrine, excused himself from the hearing under alleged undisclosed medical condition.  Other BP officials are to testify on Thursday.

The Justice Department did not assure the press if a criminal investigation was taking place or would take place in the future, but Congress has called for one.  In the meantime federal investigators asked Transocean keep anything considered to be potential evidence.  Carl Smith, a Coast Guard expert testified and reinforce the already known fact that  ‘company men’ have a lot to say on decisions made at an oil platform.


BP’s manager confesses his bosses caused explosion

AP

BP's CEO Tony Hayward

Senior managers complained oil giant BP was “taking shortcuts” by replacing heavy drilling fluid with saltwater in the well that blew out, triggering the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to witness statements obtained by The Associated Press.

Truitt Crawford, a roustabout for drilling rig owner Transocean Ltd., told Coast Guard investigators about the complaints. The seawater, which would have provided less weight to contain surging pressure from the ocean depths, was being used to prepare for dropping a final blob of cement into the well.

“I overheard upper management talking saying that BP was taking shortcuts by displacing the well with saltwater instead of mud without sealing the well with cement plugs, this is why it blew out,” Crawford said in his statement.

A spokesman for BP, which was leasing the rig Deepwater Horizon when it exploded April 20, killing 11 workers and triggering a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, declined to comment.

The Coast Guard on Wednesday granted final approval for BP’s latest bid to plug the leaking well by force-feeding it heavy drilling mud and cement. There was no word on when that attempt might begin.

Meanwhile, the statements from workers ahead of a hearing in New Orleans on Wednesday and a congressional memo about a BP internal investigation of the blast indicated warning signs were ignored. Tests less than an hour before the well blew out found a buildup of pressure that was an “indicator of a very large abnormality,” BP’s investigator said, according to the congressional memo.

Still, the rig team was “satisfied” that another test was successful and resumed adding the seawater, said the memo by U.S. Reps. Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak to members of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which is investigating what went wrong.

There were other signs of problems, including an unexpected loss of fluid from a pipe known as a riser five hours before the explosion, which the memo said could have indicated a leak in the blowout preventer, a huge piece of equipment that should have shut down the well in case of an emergency. BP has cited its failure as a contributor to the blast.

The witness statements show rig workers talked just minutes before the blowout about pressure problems in the well. At first, nobody seemed too worried: The chief mate for Transocean left two crew members to deal with the issue on their own.

What began as a routine pressure problem, however, suddenly turned to panic. The workers called bosses to report a situation, with assistant driller Stephen Curtis telling one senior operator that the well was “coming in.” Someone told well site leader Donald Vidrine that they were “getting mud back.” The toolpusher, Jason Anderson, tried to shut down the well.

It didn’t work. Both Curtis and Anderson died in the explosion.

At the hearing in New Orleans on Wednesday, Douglas Brown, the Deepwater Horizon’s chief mechanic, testified about what he described as a “skirmish” between someone he called the “company man” — a BP official — and three other employees during a meeting the day of the explosion.

Brown said he didn’t pay particular attention to what they were discussing because it did not involve his engine room duties. He later said he did not know the BP official’s name.

“The driller outlined what would be taking place, but the company man stood up and said ‘We’ll be having some changes to that,'” Brown testified. He said the three other workers initially disagreed but “the company man said ‘This is how it’s going to be.'”

Frustration with BP and the federal government has only grown since then as efforts to stop the leak have failed. At least 7 million gallons of crude have spilled into the sea, fouling Louisiana’s marshes and coating birds and other wildlife.

President Barack Obama prepared to head to the Gulf on Friday to review efforts to halt the oil that scientists said seems to be growing significantly darker, from what they can see in an underwater video. It suggests that heavier, more-polluting oil is spewing out.

Ahead of his trip, Obama planned to address an Interior Department review of offshore drilling that is expected to recommend tougher safety protocols and inspections for the industry, according to an administration official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the public release Thursday of the findings of a 30-day review Obama ordered after the spill.

A new report from the Interior Department’s acting inspector general alleged that drilling regulators have been so close to oil and gas companies they’ve been accepting gifts including hunting and fishing trips and even negotiating to go work for them.

The top kill BP was poised to try Wednesday involves pumping enough mud into the gusher to overcome the flow of the well.

Engineers plan to follow it up with cement that the company hopes will permanently seal the well. It may be several days before BP knows if it worked. BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward earlier pegged its chances of success at 60 to 70 percent.

Bob Bea, an engineering professor at the University of California at Berkeley, said the procedure carries a high risk of failure because of the velocity at which the oil may be spewing.

“I certainly pray that it works, because if it doesn’t there’s this long waiting time” before BP can dig relief wells that would cut off the flow, Bea said.

Associated Press writers Mike Kunzelman in New Orleans, Jeff Donn in Boston, Ben Evans, Ben Feller, Fred Frommer and Erica Werner in Washington, Alan Sayre in Kenner, La., and Holbrook Mohr in Jackson, Miss., contributed to this story.