Deepwater Horizon oil rig following the April 20 explosion that led to
the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Transocean leased the rig to BP and
Halliburton was responsible for the cement job in the well
that some have called the cause of the blowout.
(Photo by US Coast Guard/Courtesy of SkyTruth)
US Coast Guard and Bureau of Energy Management hearings in Houston illuminate a kerfuffled Deepwater Horizon rig
By Nicholas Moroni
The joint US Coast Guard/Bureau of Energy Management federal hearings into the ongoing oil saga in the gulf continue today in Houston; however, yesterday's session was marred with a self-inflicted portrayal of disorganization among the leaders aboard the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon oil rig - which sank on April 20, killing 11 crew members.
Transocean - the company that leased the rig to BP - operatives were on the hot seat yesteday as federal officials pushed to reveal a lack of communication and organization that in no way facilitated the crew's response to the blown-out well. When US Coast Guard Capt. Hung Nguyen asked rig manager Paul Johnson matter-of-factly, "Are you clear who was in charge?"; Johnson replied, "I'm not sure."
The Los Angeles Times also reported that after the blowout, crew members were awaiting orders from senior personnel - orders they never received.
Daun Winslow, a Transocean division manager, claimed that Curt Kuchta, the rig's captain, turned to him to inquire as to whether or not he should perfrom an emergency disconnect of the drill from the well. Winslow also said he had to urge Kuchta to deploy the lifeboats.
The LA Times also published a series of troubling findings from a September 2009 audit of the rig that were summoned at yesterday's hearings - among them:
- Not all relevant personnel on the rig were knowledgeable about drilling and well operation practices.
- A review showed significant overdue maintenance jobs that required more than 3,545 man hours.
- No single person on board could account for which alarms had been disabled and for what reason.
- A warning on understaffing was issued saying that any further reduction of experienced personnel may be "detrimental to the performance of the rig."
One of the Halliburton employees expected to testify today was supposedly in direct contact with Morel and other BP representatives about the cement job in the weeks leading up to the well explosion. A faulty cement job by Halliburton may have caused the explosion: if the cement is not properly set in a well, oil and gas can mix and surge up the well at extremely high rates of speed, causing an explosive force.
As the federal hearings continue, and perhaps the finger-pointing, the question of whether or not these companies and other BP associates will be shielded under claimants' agreements to waive litigation following a settlement with attorney Ken Feinberg's Gulf Coast Claims Facility - something Feinberg is still pondering.