In what is absolutely guaranteed to spawn more lawsuits BP Cites Crucial ‘Mistake’

Oil giant BP PLC told congressional investigators that a decision to continue work on an oil well in the Gulf of Mexico after a test warned that something was wrong may have been a “fundamental mistake,” according to a memo released by two lawmakers Tuesday.

The document describes a wide array of mistakes in the fateful final hours aboard the Deepwater Horizon—but the main revelation is that BP now says there was a clear warning sign of a “very large abnormality” in the well, but work proceeded anyway.

The rig exploded about two hours later.

According to the memo, BP identified several other mistakes aboard the rig, including possible contamination of the cement meant to seal off the well from volatile natural gas and the apparent failure to monitor the well closely for signs that gas was leaking in, the congressmen wrote in their post-meeting memo. An immense column of natural gas, erupting from the oil well, fueled the fireball that destroyed the rig.

A Transocean spokesman said in response to the memo: “A well is constructed and completed the same way a house is built—at the direction of the owner and the architect. And in this case, that’s BP.”

The memo sheds new light on a key test performed hours before the explosion that has been a focus of congressional investigations. BP previously told investigators that a “negative pressure” test, which checks for leaks in the well, was inconclusive at best and “not satisfactory” at worst.

But in the meeting Tuesday, BP went further, saying the results were an “indicator of a very large abnormality” but that workers—unnamed in the memo—decided by 7:55 p.m. that the test was successful after all. That may have been a “fundamental mistake,” BP’s investigator said in the meeting, according to the memo.

Transocean argued with BP before blast

Transocean is attempting to absolve itself from legal blame, perhaps rightfully so.

Tonight we see Big Spat on Rig Preceded Explosion

Douglas H. Brown, Transocean’s chief mechanic on the Deepwater Horizon rig, said key representatives from both companies had a “skirmish” during an 11 a.m. meeting on April 20. Less than 11 hours later, the well had a blowout, an uncontrolled release of oil and gas, killing 11 workers.

Mr. Brown said Transocean’s crew leaders—including the rig operator’s top manager, Jimmy W. Harrell—strongly objected to a decision by BP’s top representative, or “company man,” over how to start removing heavy drilling fluid and replacing it with lighter seawater from a riser pipe connected to the well head. Such pipes act as conduits between the rig and the wellhead at the ocean floor, and carry drilling fluid in and out of the well.

Removing heavy drilling fluid prior to temporarily sealing up a well and abandoning it is normal, but questions have emerged about whether the crew started the process without taking other precautionary measures against gas rising into the pipe.

It wasn’t clear what Mr. Harrell objected to specifically about BP’s instructions, but the rig’s primary driller, Dewey Revette, and tool pusher, Miles Randall Ezell, both of Transocean, also disagreed with BP, Mr. Brown said. However, BP was in charge of the operation and the BP representative prevailed, Mr. Brown said.

“The company man was basically saying, ‘This is how it’s gonna be,’ ” said Mr. Brown, who didn’t recall the name of the BP representative in question.

Mr. Harrell hasn’t testified and declined repeated requests for comment. Donald Vidrine, listed on Transocean’s documents as BP’s “company man” on April 20, couldn’t be reached. Mr. Revette was among the 11 workers who were killed.

Mr. Vidrine was supposed to testify Thursday but dropped out, citing an undisclosed medical issue, according to a Coast Guard spokeswoman. Another top BP official who was scheduled to testify Thursday, Robert Kaluza, declined to do so, asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, the Coast Guard spokeswoman said.

BP Document Says Leak Bigger Than Previously Disclosed

In what is certainly no surprise to anyone tuning into non-mainstream media reports, BP Document Shows Leak May Be 14,000 Barrels Daily.

A BP Plc document shows the company’s well in the Gulf of Mexico may be leaking about 14,000 barrels of oil a day, more than publicly estimated, U.S. Representative Edward Markey said today.

The internal BP document from April 27 put a high estimate for the leak at 14,266 barrels a day, Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said today at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing. At the time, BP was saying publicly that its well was leaking 1,000 barrels a day, Markey said.

The amount of oil being spilled will help determine BP’s liability for the leak, which was triggered by an April 20 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig leased by BP from Transocean Ltd. BP began its most ambitious attempt to plug the well today by pumping mud-like drilling fluid into it. Markey said he received the BP document yesterday.

“According to this BP document, the company’s low estimate of the leak on April 27 was 1,063 barrels a day,” Markey said. “It’s best guess was 5,758 barrels a day. Its high estimate was 14,266 barrels a day. So when BP was citing the 1,000 barrels a day figure to the America people on April 28, their own internal document from the day before showed that their best guess was a leak of 5,758 barrels a day and their high estimate was over 14,000 barrels a day.”

Oil spill chemicals poisoning fishermen

Riki Ott, A marine toxicologist says “at high concentrations, what we learned at Exon-Valdez is it literally fries the brain”.

It’s like sniffing gasoline says a worker.

A doctor cautions that a worker who does not smoke has lungs that look like a three pack a day smoker.

Slideshow on Spill

Here is 1 of 8 images on a WSJ slideshow on the spill.

Top Kill Animation

Live Feed of Top Kill

Here is a live Live Feed of Top Kill

I cannot get that to play on Firefox in Vista. It does play in an IE window on Vista.

The commentary says …

Please be aware, this is a live stream and may freeze or be unavailable from time to time.

Throughout the extended top kill procedure – which may take up to two days to complete – very significant changes in the appearance of the flows at the seabed may be expected. These will not provide a reliable indicator of the overall progress, or success or failure, of the top kill operation as a whole. BP will report on the progress of the operation as appropriate and on its outcome when complete.”

This is clearly an ecologic disaster that will take decades or more (if ever), to fix. Many think that dispersing the oil made matters worse.

What an oily, gooey, legal mess.

Addendum:

Here is a far better live site for watching what is going on. It plays on Vista no problem.

http://cdn.livestream.com/grid/LSPlayer.swf?channel=wkrg_oil_spill&autoPlay=false

The color of the spew has changed from black to tan, this is a good sign that some of what we see is mud, not oil being blown out.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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