A presidential commission investigating the explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico has made its first official finding of responsibility, and it's a big one -- Halliburton knew the cement it was using to seal the well was bad, but used it away.
According to a report in The New York Times, the commission found that Halliburton performed three laboratory tests on the cement mixture, and concluded it did not meet industry standards.
The Times writes:
The result of at least one of those tests was given on March 8 to BP, which failed to act upon it, the panel’s lead investigator, Fred H. Bartlit Jr., said in a letter delivered to the commissioners on Thursday.
Another Halliburton cement test, carried out about a week before the blowout of the well on April 20, also found the mixture to be unstable, yet those findings were never sent to BP, Mr. Bartlit found.
Bartlit does not say that the cement failure caused the explosion, but he makes it clear that if the cement had done its job and kept the highly pressured oil and gas out of the well bore, there would not have been an explosion at all.
“We have known for some time that the cement used to secure the production casing and isolate the hydrocarbon zone at the bottom of the Macondo well must have failed in some manner,” he said in his letter. “The cement should have prevented hydrocarbons from entering the well.”
In addition to the cement, the blowout preventer, which sits on the ocean floor atop the well and is supposed to contain a well bore blowout, also failed. Eleven people were killed when the rig exploded in April, and some five million barrels of oil flowed freely in the Gulf for months until it was finally capped.
Jesse Gagliano, a Halliburton technical adviser, told federal investigators in August that the company was confident in the cement job. He said Halliburton recommended that BP use a well design with more devices called “centralizers.” But even after BP chose to use six centralizers instead of the recommended 21, Halliburton believed the cement would work properly.
“All indication at the surface was that everything went fine,” Gagliano said. “We plan for success.”