Oil giant Halliburton may be a suspect in the oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that is devastating the region. The Wall Street Journal reports that work the company did could have led to the disaster.
Halliburton admits it was involved in the "cementing" process. That involves plugging holes in the pipeline seal by pumping cement into it from the rig. The Journal writes that while it is still very early in the investigation, drilling experts agree that the cementing process is probably to blame:
"The initial likely cause of gas coming to the surface had something to do with the cement," said Robert MacKenzie, managing director of energy and natural resources at FBR Capital Markets and a former cementing engineer in the oil industry.
The problem could have been a faulty cement plug at the bottom of the well, he said. Another possibility would be that cement between the pipe and well walls didn't harden properly and allowed gas to pass through it.
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The Huffington Post was the first to report Halliburton's possible role in the explosion. It comes from a lawsuit filed by the wife of a rig worker who is missing and presumed dead. The suit claims that Halliburton "prior to the explosion, was engaged in cementing operations of the well and well cap and, upon information and belief, improperly and negligently performed these duties, which was a cause of the explosion."
Halliburton would not comment on specific allegations, instead issuing a news release detailing its work on the rig:
As one of several service providers on the rig, Halliburton can confirm the following:
-- Halliburton performed a variety of services on the rig, including cementing, and had four employees stationed on the rig at the time of the accident. Halliburton's employees returned to shore safely, due, in part, to the brave rescue efforts by the U.S. Coast Guard and other organizations.
-- Halliburton had completed the cementing of the final production casing string in accordance with the well design approximately 20 hours prior to the incident. The cement slurry design was consistent with that utilized in other similar applications.
-- In accordance with accepted industry practice approved by our customers, tests demonstrating the integrity of the production casing string were completed.
-- At the time of the incident, well operations had not yet reached the point requiring the placement of the final cement plug which would enable the planned temporary abandonment of the well, consistent with normal oilfield practice.
-- We are assisting with planning and engineering support for a wide range of options designed to secure the well, including a potential relief well.
Halliburton continues to assist in efforts to identify the factors that may have lead up to the disaster, but it is premature and irresponsible to speculate on any specific causal issues.
Halliburton originated oilfield cementing and leads the world in effective, efficient delivery of zonal isolation and engineering for the life of the well, conducting thousands of successful well cementing jobs each year. The company views safety as critical to its success and is committed to continuously improve performance.
This is not the first time Halliburton has been involved with an oil rig that exploded. Last year a rig in Australia blew up -- a rig on which Halliburton did the cementing work.