UpdateUS oil spill panel omitted cement test data – Halliburton

11 January 2011 20:52  [Source: ICIS news]

(adds updates throughout, including statements from Halliburton, Transocean and Sierra Club)

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The US presidential commission charged with investigating the Deepwater Horizon oil spill “selectively omitted” information provided to it from Halliburton regarding cement testing for the well, the oil contractor said on Tuesday.

US investigators had said that prior to the blowout, Halliburton and BP were aware of tests showing that cement used to seal the Macondo oil well in the Gulf of Mexico was unstable.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Halliburton said it disagreed with the commission’s characterisation of foam stability tests conducted in February and April 2010 related to the cement pumped into the Macondo well.

The commission alleged in its full report that foam stability tests normally require 48 hours, saying that Halliburton's tests were too short. However, Halliburton said such tests could be completed in a shorter timeframe, adding that it had testified as such.

In fact, the final foam stability test on the cement pumped for the Macondo well was completed and passed laboratory testing in 38 hours, Halliburton said. The test passed on 19 April 2010, a day prior to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig.

As such, Halliburton does not believe that issues relating to cement testing invalidated BP’s indemnification obligations, it said.

Halliburton said that following the commission’s report, it remained committed to upholding its spirit of cooperation with the panel and would continue to provide as much information as possible to ensure a thorough review process.

In the full report, the commission laid blame at the door of BP and its two subcontractors, Halliburton and Transocean, alleging the disaster was preventable.

The report cited recurring themes of missed warning signals, failure to share information and a “general lack of appreciation for the risks involved”.

Transocean, however, noted on Tuesday that multiple investigations were still underway, including an incomplete report on the well’s blowout preventer (BOP). As such, drawing final conclusions would be premature, the company said.

“Consistent with industry standards, the procedures being conducted in the final hours were crafted and directed by BP engineers and approved in advance by federal regulators,” Transocean said.

“Based on the limited information made available to them, the Transocean crew took appropriate actions to gain control of the well,” the statement continued. “They were well trained and considered to be among the best in the business.”

“In repeated public statements, BP has taken responsibility for the costs of the accident and in their Macondo contracts with Transocean and the US government, BP has agreed to assume full liability for the pollution and clean-up of any hydrocarbons that leaked from the well.”

For its part, BP noted earlier on Tuesday that blame was placed on “multiple parties” and not just on BP, adding that it supported efforts by the commission to strengthen industry-wide offshore drilling safety practices.

The report drew a mixed reaction from the American Petroleum Institute (API), which said it was pleased the commission was recommending increased funding for offshore regulators but also said it was “deeply concerned” that the report cast doubt on the entire industry based on a single incident.

Meanwhile, the US environmental group Sierra Club praised the commission for its "thorough and thoughtful examination" and said it was committed to making sure the panel's recommendations are implemented. However, the group cautioned that the only way to truly prevent another drilling disaster would be to reduce dependence on oil.

"We already have efficiency technology and clean energy solutions that will help move our nation beyond oil and make offshore drilling unnecessary," said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune.

The explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on 20 April 2010 killed 11 workers. It caused a huge oil leak, which led to the largest spill in US Gulf history before it was plugged in August.

Additional reporting by Joe Kamalick in Washington

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By: Ben DuBose
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