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BP’s Missteps Delayed Its 2017 Spill Response, Trial Witnesses Say

latex liquid pressure tankThis article is published in “The Louisiana Weekly” within the Oct. 7, 2013 edition.)

As the Macondo trial’s Section Two started in U.S. District Courtroom in New Orleans Monday, with Decide Carl Barbier presiding, BP contractors Transocean and Halliburton have been aligned with the plaintiffs, together with Louisiana and Alabama, in opposition to BP. The aligned parties contend BP was grossly negligent in responding to the spill that adopted the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion. They declare the effectively may have been capped that may, as an alternative of the following July.

Part Two includes the federal government’s consolidated, civil motion towards BP and Anadarko under the Clean Water Act and Oil Pollution Act.

Section Two is divided into a couple of parts. The primary phase, which lasted four days and wrapped up Thursday, was about supply control, Barbier stated. “This entails evidence and testimony as to what occurred at the time the Deepwater Horizon sank, the riser fractured and oil started to escape, until 87 days later when the effectively was capped,” he stated. In Phase Two’s first section, Barbier allowed every facet–the aligned events versus BP–15 hours of testimony.

Starting on Oct. 7, the second a part of Phase Two–the quantification section–begins. In it, the parties are the United States versus BP and Anadarko. “I’ve allowed twelve days, a total of forty five hours for each aspect, for quantification,” Barbier said. Penalties won’t be assessed in Part Two but will probably be the topic of a later trial.

Lawyer Brian Barr, in his opening statement Monday for the aligned parties, mentioned BP’s spill-response plan earlier than the Macondo accident was nearly 600-pages with just one web page on supply control. That page stated if the spill’s source could not be managed by the operator or distant means, BP would assemble specialists to respond. BP’s plan was merely a plan to plan, and “responders have been left to make issues up on the fly as oil gushed into the Gulf,” Barr stated.

Barr mentioned the feds didn’t have the know-how one can shut the effectively. “That expertise was expected to rest with the operator BP,” he said. The government wasn’t conscious that BP had neither the expertise nor procedures in place to cease the movement, nonetheless. Barr stated if BP had been prepared for a possible blowout, the well might have been capped inside days or weeks, not months.

In his opening statement, Brad Brian on behalf of Transocean and the aligned events, said BP misrepresented the flow price in April and will of 2010, delaying the nicely’s capping. BP repeatedly said 5,000 barrels a day was its best stream estimate and withheld paperwork exhibiting much greater charges. “The consequences of BP’s misrepresentations and concealment have been bad choices, a false prognosis of why the highest kill supply-management methodology they used failed, and tragically the rejection in Could of another technique–the blowout preventer on blowout preventer that was ready to be put in and would have capped this nicely long earlier than it was capped,” Brian mentioned.

A prime kill attempt, which involved pumping drilling mud to cease the properly’s move, failed in late Might 2010. A BOP is a safety device used to seal a well.

In January of this 12 months, BP pleaded responsible to withholding internal documents containing circulate estimates that were properly above 5,000 barrels per day, Brian noted. Throughout the spill, BP modelers sent possible stream charges of a hundred and ten,000 barrels per day and higher to their bosses in BP, he mentioned. On Might 10, 2010, BP edited a chart so as to point out a much decrease, worst-case situation of the stream, and inserted a most likely rate of 5,000 barrels a day.

“On Could 16, 2010, the Unified Command approved BP’s advice to do the top kill,” Brian stated. The Unified Command included the U.S. Coast Guard and a number of other federal businesses, along with BP and Transocean. “However within hours of that call, they realized from their outside guide, Dr. Ole Rygg at Add Power, that the highest kill process they have been contemplating wouldn’t work if the well was flowing at 15,000 barrels per day or increased,” Brian mentioned. Add Energy, based mostly in Norway with an office in Houston, was contracted by BP to assist in effectively management.

Even after the top kill effort failed in May, BP nonetheless wouldn’t admit the dimensions of its flow rate, Brian stated. BP’s false flow statements shaped the restoration effort and greatly delayed the properly’s capping, he said.

In his opening assertion Monday, Don Godwin for Halliburton and the aligned parties, additionally said BP’s lowballing of the nicely’s circulation and its lack of preparation for a blowout delayed the capping course of.

Mike Brock, representing BP, in his opening famous that 700 engineers and technicians labored in the company’s Houston center in two shifts a day in the course of the spill. “All of those folks were devoted to getting this nicely shut in as shortly as doable,” he stated. “It defies widespread sense to say that we might delay by two months the shut-in as a result of we did not wish to say one thing about why prime kill had failed.”

Underlying its spill response, BP had several guiding rules, Brock said. “First, do not take any action that makes matters worse,” he mentioned. “You are going to see after we have a look at the decision about BOP-on-BOP, versus prime kill versus different choices like assortment, that this is a major overriding principle.” The opposite ideas have been “work options in parallel; go away no stone unturned; spare no expense,” he mentioned.

Brock mentioned the 5,000 barrel-per-day flow estimate came from the Nationwide Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Everybody understood that there was significant uncertainty that went with that quantity,” he mentioned. Federal scientists and technicians embedded in BP’s Houston heart have been working intently with BP. “They were talking on the water cooler,” he stated. “They had been overtly sharing information at that heart.”

Brock said the feds weren’t misled and knew the circulation rate may very well be over 15,000 barrels per day before the highest-kill process was attempted.

“In the end, the capping stack was utilized to seal the effectively on July 15, 2010,” Brock mentioned. “BP did not misrepresent movement fee in a manner that induced a delay of the shut-in. It made reasonable engineering decisions primarily based on what was known at each step alongside the best way, holding in thoughts the principles of historical price of west texas crude oil do no harm, work all options in parallel, go away no stone unturned. That is not fraud. That’s not gross negligence.” A capping stack is a gadget used to shut off the flow from a nicely.

On Monday, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Know-how professor John Wilson, underneath cross examination from Hariklia Karis on behalf of BP, discussed some of the problems with BP’s having underestimated its flow. “If the circulate rate is sufficiently high, such that the momentum kill does not work, that also suggests the move charge is sufficiently excessive as a result of there’s not a variety of obstructions in the blowout preventer,” Wilson stated. “And if there are fewer obstructions in the BOP, there’s less chance that the junk shot would succeed just by a matter of physics.” Junk pictures, something BP tried in late Could 2010, involve injecting golf balls, shredded tires and other material to obstruct the movement of oil.

Rob Turlak, who manages subsea engineering and effectively-control techniques for Transocean, labored on a BOP-on-BOP set up plan to cap the well. But it was delayed in May after which shelved in June. Under examination from legal professional Luis Li on behalf of Transocean and the aligned parties, Turlak mentioned Tuesday he never obtained an evidence about why BP scrapped the BOP-on-BOP strategy.

On Tuesday, Texas petroleum engineer Edward Ziegler, an aligned parties expert witness on nicely control, famous that BP admitted to having spent nothing on research and growth for source plans. If the company had developed such plans earlier than the blowout, the circulation wouldn’t have lasted so lengthy, he said.

“You want a real plan immediately when the occasion begins,” Ziegler mentioned. “You will have a nicely flowing out of management so you do not start having meetings and groups and trying issues and different choices. You even have a plan and you immediately do it.” He said BP thought-about various methods, including an preliminary plan to make use of a BOP on a BOP. “Then they modified that,” he stated. BP changed plans about which rigs to make use of in its nicely-control operations.

“By the point they put the actual capping system on the well in July of 2010, that was the sixth different gadget they had started on,” Ziegler mentioned. BP might have positioned a capping stack on the properly on the seafloor in Could, monitored pressures and might have closed the effectively by mid-May, he stated. A capping machine was readily out there on Transocean’s Discoverer Enterprise drilling rig but a plan to make use of it was scrapped, he mentioned.

“I heard the BP gentleman in the opening say there were so many uncertainties and so many unknowns, and that is why BP couldn’t do sure issues,” Ziegler said, referring to Brock’s opening comments. However “you have to get the info, and the technique to get it is to put the cap on there with control-and-stream tools and get hold of the data,” he stated. “As a substitute of worrying about it and fretting and wringing your arms for two months, simply do it immediately.” He said it was clear in July 2010 that the effectively had integrity but that would have been learned two months earlier.

On Wednesday, James Dupree, BP’s chief operating officer of useful resource improvement and expertise, testified about how the stream was stopped with a capping stack on July 15, 2010. “We monitored the strain,” he said. “We ultimately had been satisfied that no broach was ongoing. We watched the sea floor so that there was no threat of a broach. Then we rigged up on the well and killed it by historical price of west texas crude oil pumping mud down. We pumped a large cement slug into the well and cemented the well from the bottom.” That technique of putting in the stack to cementing the base took 4.77 days.

On Thursday, Iain Adams, managing director of well-engineering agency Norwell in Scotland and BP’s expert witness on response to the blowout, said underneath examination from Hariklia Karis that a need to explore options, consider knowledge and peer reviews, and mitigate danger prolonged the time it took to kill the effectively. “If a pre-built capping stack had been installed the way the aligned events urged, in a week or a few weeks, you’d have had to principally ignore the important thing dangers of well integrity and set up vessels,” he said. The three-ram stack that killed the effectively in July 2010 couldn’t have been deployed immediately after the blowout because risks needed to be thought-about first, he stated.

In testimony Tuesday, U.C. Berkeley engineering professor Robert Bea, a catastrophic threat skilled, said that before the April 2010 accident BP estimated a Macondo blowout could price between one hundred million and one billion dollars, whereas Bea had predicted it would vastly exceed ten billion dollars.