Did BP Start Losing Containment of the Oil Well in February? → Washingtons Blog
Did BP Start Losing Containment of the Oil Well in February? - Washingtons Blog

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Did BP Start Losing Containment of the Oil Well in February?

The Deepwater Horizon blew up on April 20th, and sank a couple of days later. BP has been criticized for failing to report on the seriousness of the blow out for several weeks.

However, as a whistleblower previously told 60 Minutes, there was an accident at the rig a month or more prior to the April 20th explosion:

[Mike Williams, the chief electronics technician on the Deepwater Horizon, and one of the last workers to leave the doomed rig] said they were told it would take 21 days; according to him, it actually took six weeks.

With the schedule slipping, Williams says a BP manager ordered a faster pace.

"And he requested to the driller, 'Hey, let's bump it up. Let's bump it up.' And what he was talking about there is he's bumping up the rate of penetration. How fast the drill bit is going down," Williams said.

Williams says going faster caused the bottom of the well to split open, swallowing tools and that drilling fluid called "mud."

"We actually got stuck. And we got stuck so bad we had to send tools down into the drill pipe and sever the pipe," Williams explained.

That well was abandoned and Deepwater Horizon had to drill a new route to the oil. It cost BP more than two weeks and millions of dollars.

"We were informed of this during one of the safety meetings, that somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 million was lost in bottom hole assembly and 'mud.' And you always kind of knew that in the back of your mind when they start throwing these big numbers around that there was gonna be a push coming, you know? A push to pick up production and pick up the pace," Williams said.

Asked if there was pressure on the crew after this happened, Williams told Pelley, "There's always pressure, but yes, the pressure was increased."

But the trouble was just beginning: when drilling resumed, Williams says there was an accident on the rig that has not been reported before. He says, four weeks before the explosion, the rig's most vital piece of safety equipment was damaged.

As Bloomberg reports today, problems at the well actually started in February:

BP Plc was struggling to seal cracks in its Macondo well as far back as February, more than two months before an explosion killed 11 and spewed oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

It took 10 days to plug the first cracks, according to reports BP filed with the Minerals Management Service that were later delivered to congressional investigators. Cracks in the surrounding rock continued to complicate the drilling operation during the ensuing weeks. Left unsealed, they can allow explosive natural gas to rush up the shaft.

“Once they realized they had oil down there, all the decisions they made were designed to get that oil at the lowest cost,” said Peter Galvin of the Center for Biological Diversity, which has been working with congressional investigators probing the disaster. “It’s been a doomed voyage from the beginning.”


On Feb. 13, BP told the minerals service it was trying to seal cracks in the well about 40 miles (64 kilometers) off the Louisiana coast, drilling documents obtained by Bloomberg show. Investigators are still trying to determine whether the fissures played a role in the disaster.


The company attempted a “cement squeeze,” which involves pumping cement to seal the fissures, according to a well activity report. Over the following week the company made repeated attempts to plug cracks that were draining expensive drilling fluid, known as “mud,” into the surrounding rocks.

BP used three different substances to plug the holes before succeeding, the documents show.

“Most of the time you do a squeeze and then let it dry and you’re done,” said John Wang, an assistant professor of petroleum and natural gas engineering at Penn State in University Park, Pennsylvania. “It dries within a few hours.”

Repeated squeeze attempts are unusual and may indicate rig workers are using the wrong kind of cement, Wang said.

In other words, the well may have lost integrity in February, and never been properly repaired. If cracks in the well were never fully sealed, then the well may have been unstable starting in February and continuing until the April 20 explosion. (There is substantial evidence that there are cracks in the well now.)

Bloomberg continues:

In early March, BP told the minerals agency the company was having trouble maintaining control of surging natural gas, according to e-mails released May 30 by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is investigating the spill.


While gas surges are common in oil drilling, companies have abandoned wells if they determine the risk is too high.


On March 10, BP executive Scherie Douglas e-mailed Frank Patton, the mineral service’s drilling engineer for the New Orleans district, telling him: “We’re in the midst of a well control situation.”

The incident was a “showstopper,” said Robert Bea, an engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who has consulted with the Interior Department on offshore drilling safety. “They damn near blew up the rig.”

And the wives of oil rig workers killed in the blast testified that their husbands reported that the rig had problems controlling well pressure weeks before explosion.

In other words, not only is it possible that the well casing was somewhat unstable for months before the blow out, but BP may have ignored standard drilling practices by failing to abandon the well when the natural gas began surging too violently.

Sure, the rig didn't actually catch fire and sink until April, but cracks in the well and dangerous natural gas surges may mean that BP never fully had control of the well.

Note 1: These new facts also add to the massive evidence that BP has been criminally negligent.

Note 2: I am not saying that the well has been gushing oil since February (although oil industry expert Matthew Simmons says that the amount of oil leaking from the riser and blowout preventer since April 20th does not account for the massive oil plumes observed in the Gulf).


  1. BP clearly has such a cozy deal supplying the US Military with their oil that humans and our planet do not matter. This is beyond sickening. Gulag.

  2. I may have seen evidence of that earlier blowout. I was in Ft. Myers when the rig blew. The Monday after, there was oil coming in with the waves, striping the beaches. There were no other spills reported.

    Before that, I noted the striking environmental degradation in sea life and birds. Very little sea life, actually. Not even tiny crustaceans in what little seaweed washed up. There was clearly something very wrong much before BP's time line.

  3. In an age of hyper-complexity a tiny hole in the Earth can destroy countless millions of lives. The proverbial butterfly and the chaos it can cause have spoken in the gulf. Anyone know how to short property values along the shore?

  4. I am imagining a nightmare scenario in a parallel universe: Imagine if BP collaborated with the US government and declared this a "terrorist incident"!! IMAGINE the consequences.

    Instead of shredding BP shares, we could have totally shred the US constitution. The taxpayer would have paid for everything leaving BP (the "aggrieved" party) free and clear, maybe even a hero.

    We would have rounded up people of color throughout the US and shipped them off somewhere (maybe Hawaii).

    We may have started the wars we have planned on the back burner.

    The president would be reelected in a grand sweep.

  5. British Petroleum should have its corporate charter revoked. Its assets should have been seized some time ago. Enough of the pandering to British Petroleum that we've seen from the government and the corporate media.

  6. Ok, I know BP did wrong, but you don't shut the company down. That would be like killing the goose that laid the golden eggs because it farted.

    How do you think they could pay all of those claims if they are out of business?
    You go after their senior management and anybody in the chain of command who didn't blow the whistle on this crap.

    Shutting them down would be like putting Ford Motor Company out of businesss for some executive and engineer deciding to hide a defect and then people died.

    You don't kill a company because a couple of screwups in the command structure got stupid or greedy.

  7. A thoughtline. At The very least, BP may be looking at a charge of Negligent Homicide. But, this charge may expand to an Act of War as time goes on.

    A few baby steps. Say, a person starts a forest fire. The consequences increase as you go from Accident to Negligence, Negligence to Criminal Negligence to Negligent Homicide. As the charges get more serious, so do the consequences.

    If it is found to be a deliberate act, the consequences balloon. If it is a deliberate political act by a U.S. citizen, the charges can range from domestic terrorism to treason. The person who did the act usually eventually ceases to exist if people died as a result.

    If the person is foreign, they get deep sixed as a terrorist. If the act is BIG and directed by a foreign country, it may be considered an Act of War done by that foreign country through the person acting as its agent.

    Big, multinational corporations effectively bought some Supremes in order to get themselves declared “persons”. What they wanted was the “personal” benefit to buy politicians openly. But, you cannot have benefits of a designation of “person” without the attendant responsibilities for actions. In other words, they cannot as effectively hide behind the corporate veil.

    The big, multinational corporations with interconnecting Boards consider themselves a quasi country. This quasi country has the stated goal of taking over the World, fascist style, laying waste as they go about it.

    “One World Government”

    “New World Order”

    Reduce the population. It is said that Prince Philip once declared that he wanted to reincarnate as a deadly virus. Well, if they tried that, bird flu and swine flu pretty much fizzled.

    The U.S. banks generated derivatives scam has almost done in the EU. But, the U.S. has to go under, as well, in order to assimilate everyone into this “New World Order”. What better way to do that than to have a corporate “accident” that destroys a big chunk of the country, its waters, its food and its ability to easily export through ports in the gulf?

    BP and its interconnected corporations knew that they caused a rupture on the ocean floor and what that meant. Geologists had warned them what would happen. It has surfaced that after they caused the rupture out of sight, under the ocean, they took some time to secure their assets and buy interests in cleanup operations. They then proceeded like this was a viable oil well operation with nothing unusual going on.

    However, they did not bother with expensive safety measures. A bunch of folks lost their lives, but that meant fewer possible whistle blowers. And, the consequences would be relatively minor and monetary. How much is a person worth dead, after all? And, assets can be hidden and dispersed and consequences stymied by bankruptcy.

    But, a corporation is now a legal “person”. A big fine may be the least of their problems if the consequences facing a person are applied to the corporation. I think it very likely that those folks on the rig were effectively murdered for show as a corporate “accident”. From what has surfaced so far, it looks very likely that it was Negligent Homicide, at the very least. Could BP officers lose their freedom? Could the Corporation cease to exist and their assets seized?

    Here is the catch. This BP “person” is foreign. Say it is found that BP was directed to perform this act of rupturing the ocean floor as an act of terrorism on behalf of its quasi country mothership. We now have an effective Act of War done by its agent in the “person” of BP. That bypasses the carefully constructed corporate roadblocks to what the President may do, in response.

    The Justice Department is investigating criminal actions. That may be why some are jumping ship suddenly to distance themselves from the White House. All in all, this is not “business as usual”. As Obama said in his speech, we are in a war. And, it is a war on “we the people”.


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