Transocean Worker Misinterpreted Well Test, Witness Says - Bloomberg
A Transocean Ltd. (RIG) supervisor on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that blew up in theGulf of Mexico in 2010 testified that a worker misinterpreted a key test before the incident.
Randy Ezell, a Transocean drilling supervisor on the rig, said in federal court in New Orleans that he wasn’t informed about problems with the negative pressure test before the explosion by his assistant, Jason Anderson, who died in the blast.
“All I can tell you is Jason was misinterpreting what he was seeing,” Ezell said. He spoke to Anderson shortly before the blast. “He said it was a good test,” Ezell testified.
The missed test was a key cause of the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon, the U.S. and plaintiffs suing BP Plc (BP/), Transocean and other defendants contend. Ezell is the first live witness at the trial over liability for the incident who was on the rig at the time the well blew.
The blowout and explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon killed 11 workers and spilled more than 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The accident sparked hundreds of lawsuits against London-based BP, owner of the well, Vernier, Switzerland-based Transocean, owner of the Deepwater Horizon, and Houston-based Halliburton Co. (HAL), which provided cement services.
The nonjury trial over liability for the disaster began last week. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier will determine responsibility and whether one or more of the companies acted with willful or wanton misconduct or reckless indifference --the legal requirement for establishing gross negligence.
For BP, a finding of gross negligence would mean the company is liable to the U.S. for as much as $17.6 billion in Clean Water Act fines, as well as unspecified punitive damages to claimants who weren’t part of the $8.5 billion settlement the company reached with most private party plaintiffs last year. For Transocean and Halliburton, findings of gross negligence would mean the companies can be held liable for punitive damages for all plaintiffs.
In the trial in New Orleans, lawyers for the government and spill victims contend BP was over budget and behind schedule on the Macondo deep-water drilling project off theLouisiana coast, prompting the company to cut corners and ignore safety tests showing the well was unstable.
They also allege Halliburton’s cement job was defective and Transocean employees made a series of missteps on the rig, including disabling safety systems, failing to properly maintain the installation, and leaving the crew untrained for crisis situations.
BP sued its contractors, claiming Transocean workers’ miscues were the main cause of the explosion and that Halliburton officials concealed flaws with cement work done on the drilling project. Transocean and Halliburton countersued, pointing the finger back at BP on liability issues.
BP pleaded guilty to 14 federal charges in November, including 12 felonies, and admitted it misinterpreted the critical pressure test just before the explosion. The U.K. company agreed to pay $4 billion in fines and penalties, plus $525 million to settle a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission claim that the company underestimated the size of the spill.
Transocean pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor Clean Water Act violation and agreed to pay $1.4 billion, including $400 million in criminal penalties.
The U.S. and plaintiffs claim BP and Transocean misinterpreted the results of a negative-pressure test, a check for an increase in the pressure or flow of oil or gas up the well, deeming it a success when it wasn’t.
After two unsuccessful tests, BP began monitoring negative testing on an additional pipe, called a kill line. The test showed pressure on the drill pipe and zero pressure on the kill line, an anomaly that indicated the well wasn’t secure, the U.S. said in court papers.
“I think there was definitely a misinterpretation” of the negative pressure test, Ezell testified yesterday.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Paul Sterbcow asked Ezell if the Transocean crew missed danger signs in the hours before the blast.
“I’m sure there were,” he replied. “I don’t really like to think about it very much.”
Ezell, who had worked on the Deepwater Horizon for nine years, was off duty the night of April 20, 2010, when he heard a loud noise. “It was like a 747 on the rig floor,” Ezell said. This was followed by the explosion, he said.
The blast “blew me against the wall,” covering him with debris, he testified. “I was disoriented. The place I lived for nine years didn’t look” anything like it did before, Ezell said.
Ezell helped evacuate injured co-workers from the burning rig. “I stayed because it was the right thing to do,” he said.
Nine Transocean workers, including Anderson, were among the 11 killed in the explosion. The other two worked for a subsidiary of Schlumberger Ltd. (SLB)
“We were a family. We were a team,” Ezell, 57, said of his Transocean Deepwater Horizon rig crew. Anderson “was one of the best of the best. He was one of the rocks of the Horizon.”
The Deepwater Horizon crew conducted a weekly blow-out drill and a weekly well control drill among the safety programs pursued before the explosion, Ezell said.
“In my opinion they were very effective,” he testified. “We did have seven years without a lost-time incident.”
Transocean lawyer Rachel Clingman asked Ezell if he considered the Macondo the “well from hell.”
“I never viewed it as that,” Ezell said. All deep-water wells are “very difficult,” he said.
Ronnie Sepulvado, a BP manager who was assigned to the Macondo project, testified yesterday that a rotary table on the floor of the Deepwater Horizon was broken for about three years. A rotary table is a section of the drill floor that provides power to turn the drill bit.
The crew would “work around it,” Sepulvado testified. The broken table was a safety concern which he raised “with just about everybody on the rig,” he said.
Sepulvado, who had worked on the Deepwater Horizon for eight years, was a well site manager on the rig until four days before the blast, when he left because his well-control certificate was about to expire.
“Did you try to get a waiver or something like that?” plaintiff’s attorney Conrad “Duke” Williams asked him yesterday.
“BP wouldn’t give” a waiver, Sepulvado answered.
BP lawyer Carrie Karis asked Sepulvado if he considered the Deepwater Horizon to be a safe rig.
“Very safe,” Sepulvado said.
The case is In re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, 10-md-02179, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).
To contact the reporters on this story: Allen Johnson Jr. in federal court in New Orleans; Margaret Cronin Fisk in Detroit firstname.lastname@example.org
Link to BP Trial Gulf Spill Master Witness List
Current list of 100+ witnesses and expert witnesses
AG Strange, BP trial opening statement 2-25-13
OPENING STATEMENT OF ATTORNEY GENERAL LUTHER STRANGE
May it please the Court:
Robert Bea report on Deepwater Horizon blowout
You heard it here first, thanks to Infomania: the plaintiff’s cement expert states that the cement was not given enough time to set prior to the positive and negative tests. Plus something that I didn’t know: BP used leftover cement that was on the rig that contained additives inappropriate for a foamed formulation. Zowie. First the use of leftover LCM as spacer, and now this.
Cement in BP Macondo well never dried, leading to the blowout, expert witness testifies | NOLA.com
Sorry, I made an error uploading copies of the text for this article. Read the graphics from right to left. ( I’m on the side of the road working with an iPhone , kinda viewing space restricted, could not copy and paste so I used screen shots)
BP Prevails in Deepwater Horizon Insurance Dispute Against Transocean Contract Law - U.S. Fifth Circuit
While the legal profession clearly is not recession-proof, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill litigation has kept lawyers busy.
Lawyers are arguing civil liability, criminal liability, continuances, deposition appearances. The list just keeps going.
Last week, at least one of the many questions in the BP litigation was resolved. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that BP is covered by a Transocean insurance policy for up to $750 million in oil spill damages, Bloomberg reports.
Transocean Holdings owned the Deepwater Horizon, a mobile offshore drilling united that sank into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. At the time of the incident, Deepwater was engaged in exploratory drilling at the Macondo Well under a contract with Transocean. The contract required Transocean to maintain certain minimum insurance coverage for BP’s benefit.
Transocean had a $50 million policy with Ranger Insurance – a primary liability insurer – and $700 million in excess insurance policies.
Following the Deepwater disaster, BP notified the insurers of the accident-related losses. The insurers each filed a declaratory judgment action against BP, claiming that they didn’t have to cover BP. District Judge Carl Barbier agreed with the insurers, but the Fifth Circuit reversed that decision last week.
The appellate court announced in a unanimous decision, “BP is entitled to coverage under each of Transocean’s policies as an additional insured as a matter of law.”
Applying Texas law, the court concluded that Transocean’s umbrella insurance policy – not the indemnity provisions of the contract between Transocean and BP – controlled BP’s coverage. Because the insurance policy did not impose meaningful limitations on BP’s coverage, the insurers have to cough up the cash.
Halliburton Worker Says He Missed Signs of Blowout Risk - Bloomberg
A Halliburton Co. (HAL) worker assigned to monitor a BP Plc (BP/)well testified at trial that he missed a warning sign of a potential blowout on the Deepwater Horizon rig before the explosion that set off the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
Joseph Keith, a “mud logger” who monitored the flow of fluid in the well, agreed under questioning in court today in New Orleans that he didn’t alert others on the rig on April 20, 2010, as pressure increased on the drilling pipe, a sign of a possible “kick.” A kick is an entry of gas or fluid into the wellbore, which can set off a blowout.
At the nonjury trial over liability, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier is to determine responsibility for the disaster and whether BP, owner of the well; Transocean Ltd. (RIG), owner of the Deepwater Horizon; or Houston-based Halliburton acted with willful or wanton misconduct or reckless indifference – the legal requirement for establishing gross negligence.
Keith said he hadn’t seen any indications of a kick while monitoring the well. When presented at trial with data showing 100 pounds per square inch of pressure on the pipe, he said he didn’t think it was an “anomaly.” A reading of 100 psi required a well monitor to alert others of a possible kick, he acknowledged under questioning by plaintiffs’ lawyer John de Gravelles of Baton Rouge.
“I’ve been a mud logger for 19 and a half years and I’ve never missed a kick,” Keith testified.
“You missed this one, didn’t you sir?” Gravelles asked.
“You and a lot of other people, correct, sir?” Gravelles asked.
“Yeah,” Keith answered.
The blowout and explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon killed 11 workers and spilled more than 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The accident sparked hundreds of lawsuits against London-based BP, Vernier, Switzerland-based Transocean, and Houston-based Halliburton. Trial began Feb. 25.
“I’m sorry it happened,” Keith said during his testimony. He wept on the stand as he recalled the chaotic evacuation from the rig. “I wish it had never happened…and everybody was still at work,” he said.
Lawyers for the government and spill victims contend BP was over budget and behind schedule on the Macondo deep-water drilling project off the Louisiana coast, prompting the company to cut corners and ignore safety tests showing the well was unstable.
They also allege Halliburton’s cement job was defective and Transocean employees made a series of missteps on the rig, including disabling safety systems, failing to properly maintain the installation and leaving the crew untrained for crisis situations.
BP sued its contractors, claiming Transocean workers’ miscues were the main cause of the explosion and that Halliburton officials concealed flaws with cement work done on the drilling project. Transocean and Halliburton countersued, pointing the finger back at BP on liability issues.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs and co-defendants contend that Keith should have alerted others that a kick was occurring. Keith testified today that while he took a smoke break during a critical time on the night of the explosion, he was back on duty in time to monitor the well.
Monitoring the well “was a little hard that night” because so many simultaneous operations were going on, Keith said. Halliburton had been hired to provide cementing services to seal the well to prevent leaks of hydrocarbons. Keith was monitoring the well that night as workers tried to seal it while preparing to move the drilling rig.
Keith said he had never seen so much activity during displacement of a well. This included repeated flushing of tanks, crane operation, diverting of fluid overboard and offloading of mud from another vessel below the rig, Keith said.
Keith said he had no authority or means to shut in the well, stop the flow of mud, pumps, or otherwise stop drilling operations. He could only advise others with such authority of abnormal readings on gas or well-monitoring equipment.
If he detects a kick, “we’re just supposed to let them know if we see anything,” he testified.
Keith said Transocean’s and BP’s monitors in the drilling shack were looking at the same data he was and had access to information that he didn’t.
Under questioning by Halliburton attorney Floyd Hartley Jr., Keith said that on April 20 he set alarms on his monitoring equipment for abnormal changes in gas and fluid flow. When he came back from his smoke break, Keith said he saw alarms go off in his shack on the rig.
“I made several calls to the rig floor and a call to the mud lab,” Keith recalled. When he called the lab, he said he was told that a crew was cleaning a tank.
He said he saw a spike in pump pressure and telephoned assistant driller Stephen Curtis about 9:15 p.m. and was informed that it had nothing to do with well pressure or a blowout. Keith testified that a few seconds later he called Curtis, who said a valve was lined up wrong. Curtis sent a crew to investigate a “pop-up valve,” Keith said. There was no indication of a kick or blowout, Keith said.
Keith said the first sign he had there was something wrong was when he heard a noise outside like rain on the roof of his shack on the rig. It was drilling mud coming up from the Macondo. Then, “I smelled gas,” he said. His monitoring system shut down and “everything went black,” Keith testified.
The well exploded shortly after. Keith and other survivors were evacuated to the nearby workout boat, the M/V Damon Bankston, where they watched the rig burn. Curtis, an assistant driller for Transocean, was among the 11 people who perished in the blast.
Barbier also heard testimony today from Edward G. Webster, a marine engineering expert, who said Transocean officials didn’t comply with international safety management codes in their operations of the Deepwater Horizon rig.
Webster said that his review of records in the case showed Transocean executives violated the international codes by failing to properly maintain the drilling installation, including its fire-suppression system.
He noted that a 2005 audit of the rig raised concerns about “the availability and reliability” of the emergency shut-down system designed to avoid explosions and fires and listed its effectiveness as “suspect.”
Transocean managers were required under the safety codes to fix any equipment that broke on the rig, Webster added. Other witnesses have testified that some broken drilling equipment on the Deepwater Horizon was left unattended for three years.
“They were required to fix” any malfunctioning equipment “immediately” under the international codes, he added.
The case is In re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, 10-md-02179, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).
Expert Testifies Deepwater Horizon “Not Seaworthy” | Legal News | Lawyers.com
Wrapping up the third week of testimony in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill trial, marine engineering expert Edward Geoffrey Webster testified that the rig was out of compliance with international and federal safety codes.
Webster’s testimony focused on Transocean, the company that owned Deepwater Horizon and trained its crew. He specified that Transocean violated safety codes by disabling the rig’s safety and alarm systems, neglecting basic maintenance of the blowout preventer and failing to train its crew for worst-case scenarios.
In his 2011 report on the disaster, Webster blamed the crew for failing to activate the general alarm and for diverting the surging oil into small, low-pressure tanks on the rig rather than to emergency lines directed away from the deck. Even a “minimally competent crew” would have taken those actions immediately, he said.
The alarms, fire suppression systems and other safety features on the rig were designed to activate automatically when conditions called for them, but Transocean disabled those functions. In earlier testimony, Transocean worker Randy Ezellsaid this was done to avoid waking up sleeping crewmembers with false alarms.
“From the naval architecture and marine engineering and surveying standpoints, disabling the vessel’s gas and fire suppression systems was reckless conduct by Transocean,” Webster wrote in his report. “A marine surveyor would find the overridden system rendered the vessel unseaworthy.”
The report says the rig’s blowout preventer was in a “state of disrepair” and was “incapable of shutting in the Macondo well.” Webster said the crippled blowout preventer rendered the rig “unfit for its intended service, a condition that apparently existed for years prior to the casualty.”
“It was reckless of Transocean to create a vessel condition that allowed destruction of the only communication between the vessel and the mechanical means of severing its anchor to a burning well,” he wrote.
Potential New Evidence Found
A lawyer for Halliburton informed U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier Wednesday night that the company may have located leftover samples of the cement used in the Macondo well.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan ordered a detailed report from Halliburton on the possible whereabouts of any remaining samples after earlier testimony suggestedthat they may have been discarded. While Halliburton’s attorneys prepared the report, workers found cement samples on a shelf in their Lafayette, La., facility that may be from the same batch.
Halliburton attorney Don Godwin downplayed the discovery, telling Barbier, “Our judgment is they have nothing to do with this trial, I was simply giving the court full disclosure.”
Halliburton is investigating how the samples were misplaced and whether they are covered by a 2010 federal subpoena, under which other known samples were handed over to the government.
Halliburton Accused of Destroying Evidence in Oil Spill Trial | Legal News | Lawyers.com
A Halliburton executive was questioned today over allegations that his company destroyed evidence related to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion of 2010, but insisted he was not personally involved in any coverup.
Timothy Probert, now Halliburton’s president of strategic and corporate development, faced several questions about cement samples that were requested but never received by oil giant BP for examination in BP’s internal investigation into the accident. Halliburton was the contractor that developed the cement slurry used in the doomed Macondo oil well.
Probert said he was not a cement expert and was “not involved in any way” with testing the samples, but that he was aware of “irregularities” that surfaced during those tests.
Jeffrey Breit, an attorney representing a group of Gulf Coast residents and business owners, asked Probert if lab workers discarded or failed to write down their observations while testing the cement samples. Probert said that doing so “wouldn’t be consistent” with Halliburton’s policies, but that he couldn’t personally vouch for every Halliburton technician’s adherence to those policies in this case.
When an attorney for co-defendant and BP contractor Transocean asked Probert if he was “angry” to learn that the evidence may have been destroyed, Probert said, “It doesn’t make you feel happy.”
‘Unwavering’ Refusal to Release Evidence
Click here to read our full coverage of the trial.
The allegations that Halliburton destroyed evidence first arose in December 2011, when BP formally accused Halliburton in court documents.
“Halliburton has steadfastly refused to provide these critical testing and modeling results in discovery,” the court filing says. “Halliburton’s refusal has been unwavering, despite repeated BP discovery requests and a specific order from this Court. BP has now learned the reason for Halliburton’s intransigence — Halliburton destroyed the results of physical slurry testing, and it has, at best, lost the computer modeling outputs …”
“More egregious still, Halliburton intentionally destroyed the evidence related to its non-privileged cement testing, in part because it wanted to eliminate any risk that this evidence would be used against it at trial.”
The motion cites the deposition of Rickey Morgan, one of the lab technicians who tested the samples. Morgan testified that the samples “looked thin” but that he didn’t record the test results or retain the samples because he “worried about” those samples “being misinterpreted in the litigation.”
Halliburton maintains that BP’s motion is without merit.
Blowout Preventer Not the Best
Forensic engineer Rory Davis, who was part of the team that investigated the Deepwater Horizon’s failed blowout preventer, also concluded his testimony today. He said that while the blowout preventer met the standards of offshore drilling regulators, it wasn’t the safest or most powerful equipment available.
In his testimony last week, Davis said that better blowout preventer shears could have successfully cut through the rig’s riser pipe and sealed off the well. But when an automatic function finally activated the shears two days after the blowout, the blowout preventer lacked the power to sever the pipe, which by then was leaning in a way that made a clean cut difficult.
The Interior Department says BP can bid in… - Seeking Alpha
Thursday, March 14, 4:48 PM ET
The Interior Department says BP can bid in next week’s central Gulf of Mexico offshore lease sale, but will be disqualified if after a 90-day review it remains under the suspension imposed on federal contracts after its guilty plea to Macondo spill-related charges. BP has not said whether it will participate, but it is typically a big player in central Gulf sales because of the area’s significant deepwater fields.
BP appeals against ‘absurd’ Deepwater Horizon settlements
The Deepwater Horizon disaster that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 was the worst ecological disaster in the history of the United States, causing catastrophic ecological ruin that is still being felt today. The disaster itself was caused by an explosion on the offshore oil rig, which caused deaths of 11 people, but also damaged an underwater well head. While British Petroleum, the owner and operator of the oil rig, tried desperately to cap the well head, oil gushed into the gulf for months, releasing nearly 4 million barrels. It took BP nearly three months to finally plug the well head, but by this time, the gulf was in a state of ecological ruin, affecting everything from sea birds to the local fishing industry.
As a result, BP was taken to court, found guilty on numerous charges and ordered to make numerous payouts as compensation to the millions affected. In one particular criminal fine, the highest ever made in US history, BP was ordered to pay $4.5 billion to the US government’s environmental agency, which would set up a fund to provide compensation to those affected.
>>>>>>>But BP has recently objected to the fund and certain payouts it has made, saying that some of the money awarded by the fund are “fictitious” and “absurd.”<<<<<<
While being embroiled in dozens of legal cases, BP did take responsibility for the Deepwater Horizon disaster, setting aside an approximate $7.8 billion for settlements, agreeing to make payout to some 100,000 individuals who had been affected by the oil spill. But it has objected to some of the payouts being made, saying that the lawyers in charge of the settlements are loosely interpreting the terms of the agreement and giving settlements that are far too “generous.”
>>>>>>>The company cited numerous examples of this, including a Louisiana rice mill that is 40 miles inland from the coats and received $21 million and an Alabama construction company that got $9.7 million, even though it is 200 miles inland. In a statement, BPsaid, “BP did not agree to pay what is already hundreds of millions of dollars, and potentially billions, to claimants with ‘losses’ that do not exist in reality.”<<<<<<<<
Responding, the claimant’s lawyers said that the company had “undervalued the settlement and underestimated the number of people and businesses that qualify under the objective formulas that BP agreed to."
According to BP, the settlement amount is expected to be far higher than it once accounted for and rendering these could cause “irreparable harm.”
Fuel Fix » BP withheld data from rig crew in Gulf disaster, expert says
NEW ORLEANS — The crew of the rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 was well trained and followed standard procedures before the oil spill disaster, but critical information was withheld from them by British oil giant BP, a Transocean drilling expert testified Monday.
“I think they were trying to get it right,” Calvin Barnhill, a petroleum engineer, said of the crew during the fourth week of a civil trial in federal court in New Orleans over the disaster.
Barnhill was called to the stand by Swiss drilling contractor Transocean, which sought to shift blame to other companies as it began its defense after a federal judge balked at a BP request to dismiss plaintiffs’ claims of gross negligence.
Transocean, which owned the Deepwater Horizon rig and was leasing it to BP, also is expected to call Chief Executive Steve Newman to the stand. That will likely occur on Tuesday.
Barnhill, who reviewed documents and other materials on behalf of the company, said the rig was “state of the art” and had drilled in depths few other rigs in the world had at the time.
He also testified that BP well-site leaders thought the rig crew was a “trained and experienced crew.”
Barnhill said well control is critical when temporarily abandoning a well as BP was doing at the time of the disaster, and he said BP had ultimate authority whether to proceed with the job after a key pressure test was conducted on the well the day of the disaster. BP has admitted it misinterpreted the test.
Barnhill said the crew acted as best it could with the information it had before BP’s Macondo well blew out off Louisiana, causing an explosion on the rig that killed 11 workers and leading to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
“To me, in looking at the data, each time an event occurred, the crew responded to it,” Barnhill said. “We can debate whether that response was good, bad or otherwise.”
Later, on cross-examination by BP lawyer Mike Brock, Barnhill conceded, “I think all the guys on the floor made a mistake.”
Barnhill said information was withheld from the Transocean rig crew about the status of testing on the cement that was used to seal the well. He also said the crew was not told full details about the discussion BP was having about the number of centralizers to use in the well.
Centralizers are meant to ensure casing runs down the center of the well bore. If casing strings are cemented off-center, there is a risk that a channel of drilling fluid or contaminated cement will be left where the casing contacts the oil formation, creating an imperfect seal.
BP rejected cement contractor Halliburton’s recommendation to use 21 centralizers. Instead, BP used six centralizers.
Earlier Monday, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said a request by BP to rule that plaintiffs suing over the oil spill have failed to prove the company acted with gross negligence in connection with the disaster was premature.
Barbier asked BP lawyer Andrew Langan to file a formal motion, but cautioned, “Frankly, I’m not going to grant that ruling.”
Barbier said he would defer ruling until later in the case. The request for the dismissal of that key issue came on the 13th day of trial in federal court in New Orleans, after the plaintiffs said their case was all but wrapped up.
M-I Swaco, a unit of oilfield services firm Schlumberger that provided fluid for BP’s doomed Macondo well, said in a court filing that plaintiffs, including the states of Alabama and Louisiana, haven’t proven that its actions were negligent or caused the well to blow out. Barbier did not immediately rule on the request to dismiss plaintiffs’ claims against M-I Swaco.
Plaintiffs attorneys said they still have a final witness, but will call the person at a later date, out of turn.
During the first phase of the trial, Barbier is hearing evidence on the causes of the well blowout and will determine how to allocate fault. The second phase will address the amount of oil that spilled.
At some point during the trial or after, Barbier also is expected to determine if the disaster resulted from gross negligence.
Further proceedings could determine how much in punitive damages should be assessed, and separate trials could determine damage awards for individuals and businesses that opted out of a multibillion-dollar settlement last year between BP and private parties claiming economic or health damages.
Parties include plaintiffs’ attorneys who represent individuals and businesses affected by the spill, the Justice Department, several Gulf states, BP, Transocean, cement contractor Halliburton and blowout preventer maker Cameron.
Among other things, the plaintiffs allege Transocean had a history of poor safety culture and had not maintained the Deepwater Horizon rig properly.
Billions of dollars are at stake at the trial. Settlement talks continue between some of the parties.
BP has already spent more than $24 billion on costs related to the disaster and compensating victims.
It also has agreed to pay $4.5 billion in penalties to resolve criminal charges and related securities violations, and it expects to pay out billions as part of a settlement of a class-action lawsuit with thousands of spill victims.
Gulf spill trial: Contractor finds cement samples » State News » The Picayune Item
March 15, 2013
Gulf spill trial: Contractor finds cement samples
NEW ORLEANS, La. — BP’s cement contractor on the Deepwater Horizon rig has discovered cement samples possibly tied to the ill-fated drilling project that weren’t turned over to the Justice Department after the 2010 oil spill, a lawyer for the contractor said Thursday.
Halliburton lawyer Donald Godwin told U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier that the company believes the material found Wednesday at its laboratory in Lafayette has no bearing on the ongoing trial to assign responsibility for the nation’s worst offshore oil spill.
A plaintiffs’ attorney, Jeffrey Breit, countered that the samples are cement a Halliburton employee used for testing of BP PLC’s Macondo well before the disaster.
The blowout and explosion on April 20, 2010, killed 11 workers and led to the enormous spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The failure of the cement job to seal the well was part of a complex web of mistakes that led to the April 20, 2010, blowout, according to a series of government probes.
In an email to the court late Wednesday, Godwin says Halliburton is investigating whether the cement samples should have been turned over in response to subpoenas.
“The lab was immediately instructed to photograph the materials and to continue to hold them,” Godwin wrote.
Godwin’s email said the newly discovered samples appear to be associated with the Kodiak well, which the London-based energy giant BP and its contractor Transocean were drilling in the Gulf.
The non-jury trial began Feb. 25 and could last months. Barring a settlement, Barbier could decide how much more money that BP and its contractors owe for their roles in the catastrophe. BP could be on the hook for nearly $18 billion in penalties under the Clean Water Act if the judge finds that it acted with “gross negligence.”
During the trial’s opening statements, plaintiffs’ attorney Jim Roy said Halliburton used a cement blend from the Kodiak well in designing the Macondo well. The Kodiak cement contained an additive, a defoamer that “destabilizes and is incompatible with foam cement,” Roy said.
“So why would Halliburton risk using this leftover Kodiak cement on the Macondo well and try to convert it to a foam cement when it had defoamer in it? The evidence will show Halliburton was able to save time and save money by doing so,” Roy said.
Godwin’s email said Halliburton lawyers didn’t have any idea that materials associated with the Kodiak well were still in the company’s possession before hearing testimony Monday from Timothy Probert, a Halliburton president who served as its chief safety officer at the time of the disaster.
Probert had testified he learned of some “irregularities” in tests that Halliburton employees performed in the spill’s aftermath.
Probert didn’t specify the nature of those irregularities, but Breit claimed Halliburton employees conducted “off-the-record” cement tests and didn’t write down some test results because they feared how they could affect spill-related litigation.
While questioning Probert, Breit said Kodiak cement that Halliburton had stored by April 30, 2010, was no longer listed as being in its possession as of July 20, 2010.
“Do you have any explanation why someone from Halliburton would have violated a preservation order of this court and removed the very Kodiak cement that was being used on the Macondo well?” Breit asked.
Godwin objected, saying there was no evidence that a court order had been violated.
“It’s unfair for anybody to stand here in this courtroom and say that my client took any of that blend out of that locker, which it did not do,” he added.
Barbier also heard several hours of testimony Thursday from marine safety expert Geoff Webster, a plaintiffs’ expert who concluded Transocean failed to properly maintain the Deepwater Horizon or adequately train its crew members. Webster said Transocean shouldn’t have allowed the rig to drill for nine years without bringing it back to shore for shipyard repairs.
“Clearly,” he said, “Transocean was more interested in production than maintenance.”
Claims Against BP Contractors Dismissed | News | Chem.Info
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal judge conducting a trial to assign fault for the nation’s worst offshore oil spill dismissed claims Wednesday against a BP contractor and the company that made a key safety device on the drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, triggering the disaster.
After plaintiffs’ attorneys rested their case Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier ruled there was no evidence that BP’s drilling fluids contractor M-I LLC made any decision that led to the blowout of BP’s Macondo well. Barbier dismissed all claims against M-I on the 15th day of the trial.
The judge also agreed to rule out punitive damages against Cameron International, the manufacturer of the blowout preventer on the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon rig, which was rocked by an explosion and fire in 2010 that killed 11 workers and touched off the enormous spill.
“I have not heard or seen evidence that would in any way support a finding of gross negligence or willful misconduct on the part of Cameron,” Barbier said.
The judge was acting on requests by M-I and Cameron to have claims against them dismissed. The two Houston-based companies have been bit players at the trial, which has centered on the actions and decisions of employees of energy giant BP, rig owner Transocean Ltd. and cement contractor Halliburton.
M-I is a wholly owned subsidiary of oil field services firm Schlumberger. Two M-I employees, Gordon Jones and Blair Manuel, were among the 11 workers killed in the blast.
BP, Transocean and Halliburton made similar requests Wednesday for Barbier to dismiss gross negligence and punitive damage claims against them, but the judge said he wasn’t ready to rule on them at this stage of trial.
Barbier is hearing testimony without a jury. Barring a settlement, he could decide how much more money the companies owe for their roles in the disaster. BP could be on the hook for nearly $18 billion in penalties under the Clean Water Act if the judge finds that it acted with gross negligence.
After Barbier’s rulings, the trial’s fourth week continued with more testimony by witnesses for Transocean, whose chief had executive testified Tuesday. BP and Halliburton also will call their own witnesses later in the proceedings.
Barbier has heard testimony by more than a dozen witnesses called by the Justice Department and private attorneys for Gulf Coast residents and businesses. The plaintiffs’ lawyers rested Wednesday after their last witness, a former Halliburton laboratory manager, finished testifying.
Earlier Wednesday, well control expert Calvin Barnhill testified he didn’t see any evidence that rig workers sacrificed safety in a rush to complete a job that was behind schedule and millions of dollars over budget.
Transocean president and CEO Steven Newman had testified Tuesday that he believes his company’s employees on the rig should have done more to detect signs of trouble before the blowout. However, he said the Swiss-based drilling company didn’t identify any internal “management failures” that led to the disaster.
Also on Wednesday, a federal grand jury handed up an indictment containing new allegations against former BP engineer Kurt Mix.
Mix was charged last year with deleting text messages about the company’s response to the Gulf oil spill. Wednesday’s new indictment accuses him of also deleting about 40 voicemails from a supervisor and roughly 15 voicemails from a BP contractor.
Mix, of Katy, Texas, pleaded not guilty in May to two counts of obstruction of justice after he was charged with deliberately deleting more than 200 text messages to and from the supervisor and more than 100 to and from the contractor. Mix doesn’t face any new counts in the superseding indictment.
Prosecutors claim he deleted the messages to prevent them from being used in a grand jury’s probe of the spill.
Mix’s attorney didn’t immediately respond to a call and email seeking comment.
BP Asks Court to Sanction Halliburton in Deepwater Horizon Trial | Fox Business
BP PLC – has asked a federal judge to issue sanctions against Halliburton Co. (HAL), alleging that the drilling contractor withheld evidence in the trial following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.
BP’s filing, issued Thursday, comes after an attorney for Halliburton told the New Orleans court overseeing the BP oil spill trial last week that it had discovered a five-gallon bucket containing cement taken off the Deepwater Horizon rig that had not been made available for evidence ahead of the trial.
Halliburton later confirmed to the court that the sample, which had been labeled with the name of another well, actually contained the blend of cement that had been used at well being drilled by the Deepwater Horizon rig before the explosion. In its filing, BP argued that the court has been deprived of evidence about the quality of Halliburton’s work and the role its products might have played in the April 20, 2010, blowout.
A spokesman for Halliburton did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
The disclosure came in the midst of a federal trial aimed at apportioning blame for the 2010 explosion between BP and the companies it contracted with to work on the well. Thursday was the 16th day of the proceeding, which is being heard by Judge Carl Barbier in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana.
BP said Halliburton “undermined the integrity of these proceeding,” and “severely prejudiced” BP and the other parties involved.
“This rig sample was responsive to subpoenas and Halliburton should have produced it years ago so that it could have been tested on a timely basis for use at trial and before it deteriorated further,” BP wrote in the filing Thursday.
Friday, the plaintiffs in the proceeding wrote in a notice to the court that Halliburton had concealed and failed to disclose evidence "all part of an effort by upper management to ratify and conceal Halliburton’s pre-blowout callous disregard for safety."
A lab employee for Halliburton testified Tuesday that he had no way of knowing that the sample was used at the well that blew out.
Last year, BP sought sanctions against Halliburton alleging that the company had destroyed the results of tests Halliburton had conducted on a cement sample it made in a lab.
But Halliburton argued, and Judge Barbier agreed, that BP was not harmed by this because the tests were not conducted on the actual cement used on the rig, so they could be replicated.
Thomas Claps, an analyst with Susquehanna International Group, wrote in a research note Friday that information about the newly discovered sample increases the chances that Halliburton will be sanctioned, which could shift some liability away from BP and Transocean (RIG).
“Halliburton’s conduct is sure to be closely scrutinized by Judge Barbier,” he wrote.
Shares of BP rose 2.49% to $41.90 Friday. Shares of Halliburton fell 0.86% to $39.13.
-Write to Alison Sider at email@example.com
Fuel Fix » Plaintiffs: Halliburton’s reckless behavior marring Gulf spill trial
Lawyers for individuals and businesses suing over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill say Halliburton’s delay in turning over key evidence in the ongoing civil trial shows the same recklessness that helped cause the disaster.
For nearly three years, Halliburton failed to hand over cement samples that may have been used with the well that blew out, spewing nearly 5 million barrels, according to government estimates that well owner BP disputes.
The lawyers for the Plaintiffs Steering Committee said in a filing Friday in federal court in New Orleans that the cement contractor’s conduct is part of “an effort by upper management to ratify and conceal Halliburton’s pre-blowout callous disregard for safety.”
The lawyers did not say they would be seeking sanctions against Halliburton in the trial, like BP and the state of Alabama are. Instead, the PSC said it will leave it up to U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to determine if Halliburton should be held in contempt.
Possible sanctions could include preventing Halliburton from using certain defenses at the trial, which could make it harder for the company to challenge a finding of gross negligence. Such a finding would allow punitive damages against the company for the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
Last week at the trial being held before Barbier, Halliburon lawyer Don Godwin acknowledged that officials recently discovered cement samples possibly tied to the ill-fated drilling project that weren’t turned over to the Justice Department after the oil spill.
Free from blame: Gulf oil spill judge tosses claims against M-I Swaco, Cameron
Also, a former Halliburton lab manager testified Tuesday that a company official asked him not to record results of a cement stability test related to BP’s blown out Macondo well.
The test was conducted shortly after the spill, using ingredients similar to those used to seal the undersea well that blew out. Timothy Quirk said he told the results to the company official that asked for the test, then he threw away his notes.
“Plaintiffs respectfully submit that Halliburton willfully and intentionally concealed and/or otherwise failed to preserve and/or timely produce and disclose material evidence and/or potentially relevant evidence to the parties and to the court in advance of trial,” the PSC lawyers said in their filing.
On Thursday night, BP said in its motion for sanctions that it wants the court to order that Halliburton’s final cement design was unstable and caused hydrocarbons to enter the well.
“Halliburton’s conduct has undermined the integrity of these proceedings and severely prejudiced BP and the other parties,” BP said in its motion.
BP said that any testing of the samples recently found could be difficult because they would likely have deteriorated given the amount of time that has passed.
“The cumulative effect of Halliburton’s pattern of destruction and spoliation of evidence has been to deprive the court and the parties of significant post-incident evidence relevant to the inherent quality and performance of the cement Halliburton provided for the job at the Macondo well, and the role of that Halliburton slurry design as a cause of the events of April 20, 2010,” BP said.
BP also wants the court to order that the test Quirk performed, the notes of which were destroyed, further establishes that the cement used on the Macondo well was not stable.
Cement test: Halliburton official destroyed notes of cement test related to Gulf oil spill
Alabama was expected to file its motion for sanctions Saturday.
In an email to the Houston Chronicle after the BP motion was filed, Godwin said, “We’ll aggressively defend as it has no merit. BP is attempting to deflect attention from itself. Halliburton will not be intimidated by BP for things it did not do.”
British oil giant BP owned the Macondo well that blew out a mile beneath the sea off Louisiana, triggering an explosion on the Transocean-owned Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that killed 11 workers. Halliburton provided the cement that failed to keep oil and gas from flowing into the well.
Barbier already has refused to drop gross negligence claims against Halliburton, BP and Transocean at this stage in the trial. He did dismiss gross negligence claims Wednesday against two lesser players in the trial, M-I Swaco and Cameron.
utterly unconcerned about the consequences of some action; without caution; careless (usually fol. by of ): to be reckless of danger.
You know what was really reckless?
BP running positive and negative tests on green cement. That my friends is reckless.
BP company men seeing 1400PSI on the drill pipe, bleeding off the pressure twice and seeing the pressure return and then proceeding to circulate out the heavy drilling mud and displace to 8300’ with much lighter sea water.
THESE ARE PERFECT EXAMPLES OF BP ACTIONS THAT WERE RECKLESS.
See the time chart below as to how WAITING ON CEMENT time is critical in reference to the achieved compressive strength if cement.
Those first few hours are VERY CRITICAL.
The chart shows the negative test started at 16 hours, however, totally disregards the start time if the positive pressure test which was run BEFORE the negative pressure test. That positive pressure test caused the casing to expand on green cement, very possibly causing microannulus, or exacerbating channelization, neither of which you want to occur on a cement job.
NEW ORLEANS, March 25 (Reuters) – The officer in charge of safety on Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, destroyed in a BP well accident that caused the worst-ever U.S. offshore oil spill, said the post-blowout fire was too big to fight and the evacuation saved lives.
In the fifth week of a trial to apportion blame among BP Plc , Transocean Ltd and other contractors for the Macondo oil well disaster, David Young, the rig’s chief mate, said the captain told him to do whatever he needed to do to get the fire on April 20, 2010, under control.
“I pulled him outside and showed him the size of the fire we were dealing with and … basically told him we couldn’t fight that fire,” Young said on Monday in a New Orleans federal court before U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier.
Young then helped load injured and other crew into lifeboats and rafts before jumping into a raft himself, he said. Later, he and others in his raft were pulled onto one of the lifeboats.
“Do you believe the Deepwater Horizon’s emergency training saved lives that night?” Transocean attorney Luis Li asked.
“I do, because we got 115 people off,” Young replied.
Eleven workers died as a result of the blowout and fire, and more than 4 million barrels of oil gushed into the Gulf from the damaged well. BP and its contractors are being sued by the U.S. Justice Department along with the Gulf states, companies and individuals affected.
Transocean’s chief executive testified last week that his workers made mistakes that day, but were not responsible for overall safety at the site. While BP accepts its role in the accident, it believes Transocean and well-cementing provider Halliburton Co share the blame.
Young, who worked on the Deepwater Horizon for 3-1/2 years, oversaw equipment maintenance and all “marine aspects” of the rig, including firefighting and lifesaving equipment, while the captain had overall responsibility for rig safety. Young said the first priority of all the rig managers was “for everybody to go home safely, back to their families.”
In cross-examination, plaintiffs’ attorney Jim Roy asked why it was Young, rather than rig captain Curt Kuchta, who pushed the button to sound the general alarm as he left the bridge.
“Isn’t the truth, sir, that you were tired of waiting for the captain or anybody else to sound the general alarm,” Roy asked, “and for the safety of yourself and the crew you decided you’re going to hit it?”
Young responded: “No, there was nothing to get tired of, so I wouldn’t agree with that.”
Transocean has pleaded guilty to federal charges connected with Clean Water Act violations and agreed to pay $1.4 billion in criminal and civil fines and penalties.
In the civil case before Barbier, the companies must show any mistakes do not meet the legal definition of gross negligence required for the highest amount of damages. BP has already spent or committed $37 billion for cleanup, restoration, payouts, settlements and fines.
Transocean is expected to call its final witnesses on Tuesday, beginning with Bill Ambrose, Transocean’s director of special projects. Other defendants then will begin calling their witnesses.
The case is In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon” in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010, No. 10-md-02179, in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana.
© 2013 Thomson Reuters, Click For Restrictions
BP Was Warned of Subpar Cement Plan Before Deepwater Horizon Blast | Legal News | Lawyers.com
BP officials overseeing theDeepwater Horizon oil rig were warned that their cement pumping plan could result in an improperly sealed well, but they moved ahead with the job anyway, a witness testified today in the civil trial over the oil spill.
Nathaniel Chaisson, a cement services coordinator for Halliburton, said that BP employees defied the recommendations of Halliburton specialists by using too few centralizers — devices that keep the well pipe centered during cement setting. Halliburton was the contractor BP hired to provide the cement slurry for the ill-fated Macondo well, and Chaisson arrived on the rig four days before the blowout to oversee the job.
“I was under the impression going out to the rig that there were to be 21 centralizers on the casing,” Chaisson testified. “I later learned, while being on the rig, that a decision had been made not to run 15 additional centralizers and only run six.”
Chaisson said that BP engineer Brian Morel and well site leader Donald Vidrine “simply informed me that, yes, that decision had been made not to run the 15 additional centralizers.”
Chaisson testified that he passed the information about the centralizers along to Jesse Gagliano, another Halliburton cement specialist whose primary task was making cement recommendations to BP. Gagliano “seemed a bit upset about the decision,” Chaisson said.
“He said there had been some previous talks during the design phase of the job, and that individuals within BP were aware of, I guess, the impact on the cement job.”
That impact was the high potential for gaps to form along one side of the cement well — a phenomenon called “channeling” in the offshore oil industry. When cement is poured around a drill pipe, it automatically flows to the areas with the most space. If the pipe is off-center, the cement won’t completely fill in the narrow spaces, creating channels that could allow oil and natural gas to reach the surface. Centralizers are the primary tools rig crews use to avoid this problem.
Chaisson testified that based on Halliburton’s cement simulations, “the lack of the additional 15 centralizers would result in channeling.”
In August 2010 testimony before the U.S. Coast Guard and Bureau of Energy Management joint investigation into the accident, Gagliano said that he shared his concerns about the centralizers with BP officials in Houston. Gagliano is expected to testify in the civil trial next week.
In previous testimony in the civil trial, another BP well site leader, Ronnie Sepulvado, testified that he preferred to use the smallest number of centralizers possible. He said that the devices had a tendency to break off and fall down the well, where they could jam the blowout preventer, a key line of defense for an oil rig.
‘No Safety Concern’
Chaisson said that the decision to use six centralizers raised “a red flag in regards to the cement placement,” but that it was not a critical safety issue.
“There was no safety concern,” Chaisson said. “I was completely aware of the effect it may potentially have on the cement job, but there were no safety concerns.”
Chaisson explained that the decision troubled him because “it may possibly result in remedial cement work having to be done.”
Earlier in the trial, Glen Benge, a cement expert for the Department of Justice, cited the decision as one of nine key errors in the cement job that contributed to the deadly blowout. Benge testified that BP erred by not informing Halliburton of the decision as early as possible.
“The operator and the service company, having been on both sides, they work together to achieve a successful cement job,” Benge testified. “You can’t do it in isolation.”