Prior to the Commission’s initial report being released, it had been reported that tests performed before the deadly blowout of the BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico should have raised doubts about the cement used to seal the well. But according to the president’s oil spill commission, the company and Halliburton Co., BP’s cementing contractor, failed to act on the information. Halliburton has said tests showed the cement mix was stable. But this is totally inconsistent with the panel’s findings. The cement’s failure to prevent oil and gas from entering the well has been identified as one of the causes of the accident. According to the panel, only one test of four by Halliburton on the cement’s stability showed that it would hold.
In the report on the incident issued by BP on September 8th, the company admitted that “weaknesses in cement design and testing, quality assurance and risk assessment” contributed to the explosion. But BP attempted to put the blame fully on Halliburton. In response, Halliburton said that it had noticed “a number of substantial omissions and inaccuracies” in the report. While Halliburton has admitted that it failed to do a critical test on the final formulation of cement used to seal the well, it isn’t taking full blame for the problem and is shifting lots of blame back to BP.
Cementing failures are a known hazard in the oil industry, with specific tests such as a “negative pressure test” and “cement evaluation logs” designed to identify cementing problems. It’s evident that workers at BP and very likely Transocean, the company that operated the Deepwater Horizon rig, misinterpreted or ignored the tests and other available information. It should also be noted that Chevron conducted independent tests of similar cement slurry materials supplied by Halliburton and found the mix to be unstable.
While the cementing issue is very significant, it’s important not to ignore the many areas where one or more of the companies involved were at fault and responsible for both worker deaths as well as tremendous economic and environmental losses.
Of course other factors contributed to the explosion, among them a faulty blowout preventer and BP’s decisions to use fewer stability rings on the well piping and seawater instead of heavier mud to plug the well until it was to be used for production.
Source: CNN and Associated Press
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