Tuesday, June 15, 2010

BP ignored warnings on Gulf well: investigators

BP knew its Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico was a "nightmare" in the days leading up to its fatal April 20 blowout, congressional investigators said yesterday, but the company "appears to have made multiple decisions for economic reasons that increased the danger of a catastrophic well failure."

From the company's uncommon well design to its fatal decision not to fully circulate drilling mud -- which could have cleared out pockets of gas -- and the lack of critical testing -- which could have pinpointed problems with the well's cementing -- BP had many opportunities to prevent an explosion, investigators with the House Energy and Commerce Committee have found.

Instead, the company violated industry guidelines and proceeded "despite warnings from BP's own personnel and its contractors," said the chairman of the committee, Rep. Henry Waxman, and the chairman of the investigative subcommittee that handled the probe, Rep. Bart Stupak.

The investigators cite one of BP's own engineers, Brian Morel, who told his colleague Richard Miller in an e-mail six days before the explosion that "this has been [a] nightmare well which has everyone all over the place."

By the day of the explosion, the Transocean-owned rig that was drilling the well was 43 days late for its next job, Waxman and Stupak wrote. At $500,000 in daily leasing fees, financial considerations "may have set the context for the series of decisions that BP made in the days and hours before the blowout," the two wrote in a 14-page letter to BP chief executive officer Tony Hayward that the committee released yesterday.

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