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The Coast Guard-MMS Hearing Continues

Gulf Gusher symbolThe New Orleans Times-Picayune continues to cover the hearing in Kenner, Louisiana on the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon and interesting things were revealed today:

Testimony of Chris Pleasant, Transocean, subsea supervisor:

But about 30 seconds later, with total chaos on the rig, Pleasant decided on his own to hit the emergency button, which would trigger the blowout preventer’s shear rams to close the well and unhitch the rig. It didn’t work.

“It went through the sequence at the panel, but it (the signal to disconnect) never left the panel. I had no hydraulics,” Pleasant recalled.

Testimony of Mark Hafle, BP drilling engineer:

Hafle said he made several changes to casing designs in the last few days before the well blew, including the addition of the two casing liners that weren’t part of the original well design because of problems where the earthen sides of the well were “ballooning.” He also worked with Halliburton engineers to design a plan for sealing the well casings with cement.

John McCarroll from Minerals Management Service, a member of a six-person investigative panel holding hearings in Kenner, couldn’t hold back his opinion that cement failures allowed the well to flow as he questioned Hafle.

“Don’t you think for that size casing, you set up your Halliburton cementer for failure, especially when you had a loss return zone (where drilling mud was seeping into the earth) below the hole?” McCarroll pointedly asked.

“I believe it’s a sound engineering practice,” said Hafle, who said the internal investigation would have to be completed before anyone knows what went wrong.

Hafle gave what appeared to be conflicting testimony about the cement bond log, considered by engineers to be the “gold standard” of testing cement jobs. Initially, when asked why no cement bond log was conducted, Hafle said it was because “we had not gotten that far in the well plan when the incident (blowout) occurred.” But later on, he said there was no plan to conduct the test and the crew was about to close off the well with a final plug, which would close of the well to cement bond log tests.

There is obviously design work needed on the BOP that would allow real testing of the system because you apparently don’t know if it will work when you need it.

It would be of interest to know why Schlumberger was contacted and paid to move its equipment to the rig and to have a team on stand-by if BP had no intention of conducting the cement bond log. Schlumberger is not exactly known as a “cheap date” and they don’t move equipment and people around without a contract.

BP apparently makes its decisions based on computer simulations. A simulation is a very useful tool, but it isn’t reality, and it may not cover all of the circumstances. It would be interesting to see if the simulation can reproduce what actually happened as a result, or if it is designed to always say “they lived happily ever after”.