Deepwater Horizon - Transocean Oil Rig Fire


#7401

RIGZONE - Judge Rules CSB Has Jurisdiction Over Deepwater Horizon Accident

A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Chemical Safety Board has jurisdiction to investigate the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico.

A Congressional committee had asked the board, which typically investigates accidents at chemical plants and refineries, to examine the oil-rig explosion and accident, which killed 11 workers and triggered the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

But Transocean Ltd., which owned the drilling rig that sank during the explosion, refused to honor subpoenas issued by the board in 2010 and 2011 for documents and employee testimony. It argued that the board lacked jurisdiction over offshore oil spills and that most of the documents had been turned over to other government agencies.

U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal disagreed with Transocean, ruling late Monday that it had to honor the subpoenas because legislation that created the board, known as the CSB, didn’t bar it from looking at all offshore incidents. He noted that the investigation focused on the explosion on the rig, not the ensuing oil spill. The House Energy and Commerce Committee had asked the board to compare the Deepwater Horizon disaster to a lethal 2005 explosion at what was then BP PLC’s Texas City, Texas refinery.

Transocean didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

“This ruling greatly supports the CSB’s ongoing investigation and will enable CSB investigators to access critical information that might have otherwise been unavailable,” the board said in a statement.

The board issued a report last July concluding that offshore oil and gas drillers put too much emphasis on issues such as individual worker injuries while neglecting other indicators of danger, such as whether safety equipment is being maintained on schedule.


#7402

RIGZONE - Fifty-Three Percent of Oil, Gas Workers Would Quit over Training

More than half of the oil and gas industry’s employees would consider leaving an employer due to a lack of training and development, according to a BP-sponsored study of 773 professionals who work in the sector across 24 countries.

Findings from the survey – which was conducted by the Society of Petroleum Engineers – found that 53 percent of respondents said a lack of training and development opportunities would lead them to consider leaving an employer. Seventy-five percent of respondents said that training and development was important in their choice of role, while 37 percent felt that a lack of training in previous roles has held them back in their career.

The survey also found that a quarter of respondents believe the current lack of training and development is detrimental to their career. Fifty-six percent of respondents believe that the employer should provide all or some training to new joiners, although only 11 percent expect their employer to provide all of their training.

The research also found that oil and gas professionals believe that future generations of oil and gas workers require more development during their university years. While universities equipped students either “quite well” or “very well” with industry knowledge and technical and computer skills, they came up short in developing soft-skills that are critical for a successful career in the oil and gas industry. Less than one-third of respondents believed that universities helped students properly develop soft skills such as initiative, flexibility and work ethic.

In November, Rigzone reported that BP had launched a new $7.2-million scholarship program for talented science, technology, engineering and mathematics students as part of the firm’s plans to foster an interest in the oil and gas industry among undergraduates. The company also runs “Discovery Days” and internships for promising students.

BP Head of Learning and Development Don Shoultz commented in a statement Tuesday:

“These findings further underscore the challenge the industry faces; we’ve got an ever growing skills deficit. The industry’s more experienced talent needs continually to transfer the knowledge and skills they have built up through mentoring programs. Separately, oil and gas companies, of all sizes, need to ensure they are consistently increasing their investment in formal training and development programs.”


#7403

BP Could Have Stopped Gulf Oil Spill on Day 2, Says Expert | Legal News | Lawyers.com

Oil giant BP could have stopped the massive 2010 oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico just two days after the blowout aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, an expert witness testified today in the civil trial over the spill.
Glen Stevick, a mechanical engineering expert called to the stand by BP’s cement contractor, Halliburton Co., testified that BP blew its only chance to salvage the blowout preventer — the last line of defense for an out-of-control offshore oil well — by failing to reposition the drill pipe before finally activating the blowout preventer two days after the blowout that killed 11 workers and spilled millions of barrels of oil.
When gushing oil and explosions overwhelmed the Deepwater Horizon on April 20, 2010, the rig lost control of the systems that kept it centered over the Macondo oil well. As the burning rig drifted and sank, the still-connected drill pipe bent and buckled in such a way that the blowout preventer had no hope of severing the pipe and sealing off the well, Stevick testified.
Two days after the blowout, robots were used to manually activate the blowout preventer, but this effort failed to seal off the well. Stevick testified this happened because the blowout preventer was never designed to sever the pipe at an angle, and that BP could have ensured the success of its attempt by centering the drill pipe before attempting a manual activation. As a result of this failure, the oil spill dragged on for 87 days.
Stevick testified that if BP had either activated the blowout preventer in a “timely” fashion or had centered the pipe first, it “could have shut the well with no problem.”
Stevick began his testimony yesterday, when he said that “every element was degraded” within the blowout preventer assembly. He testified that the device was “very unlikely to work in an emergency.”
Stevick reviewed BP documents concerning the blowout preventer’s effectiveness, pointing out that the system was designed to protect “95 to 97 percent of all drilling activities.”
“If you’re going to use a purely statistical method, you’re going to have to be at 99.999% when life and limb is at risk,” Stevick testified. “This is as low as one out of 20 you’re saying are just simply out of luck. This is criminal negligence.”
Stevick’s “criminal negligence” assessment drew a flurry of objections from BP attorneys, which were ultimately sustained.

And Then There Were Three

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier cut loose another defendant in the sprawling civil trial, sparing blowout preventer manufacturer Cameron International Corp. from liability. Barbier found that Cameron was not liable for gross negligence after plaintiffs rested their case weeks ago, but took it a step further today by declaring that the company was not guilty of any negligence at all.
“Frankly, I’ve heard no evidence during this trial or seen no evidence to support a finding of negligence against Cameron that could have in any way caused or contributed to the accident,” Barbier said.
Earlier in the trial, Barbier dismissed all charges against M-I SWACO, the contractor that provided drilling fluids for the Macondo well. With Cameron and M-I SWACO off the hook, the remaining defendants include BP, Halliburton and rig owner Transocean.
Barbier called BP and Transocean “sophisticated customers” who “specified and selected the type of blowout preventer, the components, the arrangement of the components and made decisions, whether those decisions in the end were right or wrong or proper or not.”
After the announcement, made in the middle of the trial’s 21st day, Cameron attorney David Beck asked Barbier, “May I go home?”

Trial Weeks Ahead of Schedule
Halliburton has called its last witness, and BP will begin its defense on Monday. BP attorney Mike Brock estimated today that his client’s defense could end as early as April 18, though this phase of the trial was originally expected to last through the end of May.
This fall, Barbier will hear the trial’s second phase, which will focus on estimates of the amount of oil spilled into the gulf. The final determination of those estimates will have bearing on the third and final phase — the penalty phase — because fines under the Clean Water Act will be assessed based on the amount of oil that was spilled. If found guilty of gross negligence, BP and co-defendants Transocean and Halliburton could be liable for more than $17 billion in environmental fines plus unknown punitive damages.


#7404

Anyone have access to the

LINK TO THE BP/DEEPWATER HORIZON TRIAL TRANSCRIPTS,
TRIAL CURRENTLY ONGOING IN NEW ORLEANS LOUISIANA.


#7405

Mayor Nelda Martinez urges input on plan for BP settlement money » Corpus Christi Caller-Times
(Did Corpus really suffer damages from the BP spill? Guess we learn something new every day!)
http://www.caller.com/news/2013/apr/07/mayor-nelda-martinez-urges-input-on-plan-for-bp/

CORPUS CHRISTI — Mayor Nelda Martinez has scheduled a meeting to hear ideas on how to spend the anticipated windfall produced by the Deepwater Horizon lawsuit settlement.

The meeting is scheduled from 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Del Mar College Center for Economic Development, 3209 South Staples St.

The total payout by BP PLC and other responsible parties is unknown, but fines and settlement payments total more than $6 billion so far, Martinez wrote in a news release. The trial is ongoing in New Orleans to determine additional penalties under the Clean Water Act.

Congress has called for public input through the RESTORE Act to decide how best to allocate funding for Gulf-related projects. Funds must be used to restore and protect natural resources, ecosystems, fisheries, marine and wildlife habitats, beaches, coastal wetlands, and the economy of the Gulf Coast region.

Projects could include water quality enhancements, habitat creation, protection or restoration, public infrastructure, tourism promotion and other projects along the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

The Mayor extends this invitation to participate to residents, elected officials, community organizations, neighborhood associations, businesses, government agencies, nonprofits, scientists, sportsmen, students, teachers, and interested stakeholders.

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Crap like this makes me wonder about Judge Barbiers’ last ruling against BP referenced to Pat Juneau paying fraudulent or near fraudulent
Claims. Another area that comes to mind is the Key West area in Florida. See article below
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Monroe County, (Fl. Keys area)to discuss lawsuit against BP for$17 million | KeysNews.com

http://keysnews.com/node/46345
County to discuss BP millions
BY TIMOTHY O’HARA Citizen Staff
tohara@keysnews.com
The Monroe County Commission, on Wednesday, will vote on several issues dealing with receiving money from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, including filing a $17 million lawsuit against BP.

In November, the county contracted with law firm of Campbell Malafy about investigating whether the county is entitled to damages from the oil spill. Under the terms of the contract, the firm is not being paid by the county. The firm would receive 18 percent of revenue it can prove the county is entitled to.

The group claims the county is entitled to $17 million in damages, despite the Florida Keys having a banner tourism season the same year as the spill, 2010.

Lodging occupancy rates throughout the Keys after the spill were higher in every month – except for August and December – when compared with the same month the year prior, according to the TDC’s lodging statistics. The average cost of a hotel room also was higher in every month of 2010 than it was for the same month in 2009. And, Key West International Airport saw more people arriving in May, June, July and August 2010 – during the height of the spill disaster – than during those months in 2009, records show. Tourists spent about as much money after the spill as before, if not more, according to sales tax revenues.

The $17 million lawsuit or claim also covers any future long-term issue the oil spill may cause in the Florida Keys, including impacts to water quality, the fishery or beaches.

Under law, the county has until April 19 to file a lawsuit, according to a county agenda summary.

After hearing a presentation by Malafy Campbell on Wednesday, county attorneys will ask the County Commission if it wants to file a lawsuit against BP.

Also on Wednesday, the commission is slated to appoint a committee that will make recommendations on what projects will receive millions of dollars in Clean Water Act fines levied on BP and Transocean for their roles in the oil spill.

Florida Keys leaders have named their representatives to the committee. Each Keys city made one appointment to the 11-member committee. Each county commissioner appointed a member, and the county mayor appointed two members.

The commission is scheduled to vote on the appointments Wednesday in Marathon.

County Mayor George Neugent named Historic Tours of America founder Ed Swift and Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association Executive Director Bill Kelly to the committee. Commissioner Danny Kolhage named Florida Keys Community College Dean of Marine Science Patrick Rice. Commissioner Sylvia Murphy named former Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary Upper Region Manager John Halas. Commissioner Heather Carruthers named Centennial Bank Vice President Todd German. Commissioner David Rice named Coral Shores High School marine biology teacher David Makepeace.

Key West named Assistant City Manager Mark Finigan. Marathon named Mayor Mike Cinque. Layton named Councilman William Murchie. Key Colony Beach named Commissioner John DeNeale.

The committee will make recommendations on what restoration projects will be funded with Restore Act funds. The funds come from Clean Water Act fines levied on BP and Transocean, the companies responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil rig spill in 2010.

The County Commission is ultimately responsible for doling out the local Restore Act funds.

The Florida Keys are expected to receive between $5.8 million and $23.2 million, according to estimates given to Monroe County officials.

Also on Wednesday, the commission will vote on using Restore Act funding for canal water quality restoration and storm water projects.

The commission will also discuss the possibility of using the funds for the restoration of the Old Seven Mile Bridge, the purchase of Rowell’s Marina in Key Largo and completing the Higgs Beach Master Plan, County Administrator Roman Gastesi said.


#7406

BP to call 1st witness at trial over Gulf spill. Mon. 4/08/13
http://m.yahoo.com/w/legobpengine/finance/news/bp-call-1st-witness-trial-101501409.html?.intl=us&.lang=en-us

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – BP is scheduled to call its first witness at a trial designed to determine causes and assign blame for its April 2010 well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.
The BP witnesses are scheduled to start appearing Monday. They follow testimony presented by Halliburton, BP PLC’s cement contractor on the Deepwater Horizon drilling project. Halliburton rested its case Thursday at the end of the trial’s sixth week. BP witness testimony is expected to last at least two weeks.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier is hearing testimony. Barring a settlement, he could decide how much more money BP and its contractors owe for their roles in the catastrophe.
The trial’s first phase should conclude this month. Barbier plans to hold a second phase that examines BP’s efforts to stop the spill.


#7407

Cement Bond Log: Determining Waiting-on-Cement Time post

In the past Bond logs were rarely if ever run until the completion rig was moved onto the well.
This is the reason.

Ever run a bond log? I have run many. A log on green cement is useless!!

Now, they could have run a temperature log to find the Top of Cement and compared the result to the Calculated TOC. A significant difference would indicate the cement slurry did not go where it was intended.
Also, on the temp log in conjunction with a gamma ray log the could have checked the TD and compared it to pipe measurements. A high TD could indicate that the flappers or the plug are not holding and the cement is U tubing, I.e., moving out of the intended zones to seal,off. If that happened the top of cement on the temp log would have been lower than expected.

Cement Bond Log: Determining Waiting-on-Cement Time
http://www.onepetro.org/mslib/servlet/onepetropreview?id=00014200

Publisher Society of Petroleum Engineers Language English
Document ID 14200-MS DOI 10.2118/14200-MS
Content Type Conference Paper
Title Cement Bond Log: Determining Waiting-on-Cement Time
Authors Jordan, M.E., Exxon Production Research Co.; Shepherd, R.A., Exxon Co. U.S.A.
Source
SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, 22-26 September 1985, Las Vegas, Nevada
ISBN 978-1-55563-625-8
Copyright Copyright 1985, Society of Petroleum Engineers
Preview
SPE Members
Abstract
A procedure for determining the minimum waiting-on-cement time before running a cement bond log has been developed to minimize idle drilling rig time prior to performing completion operations. The prior to performing completion operations. The method accounts for both the set properties of cement slurries and the cement bond log tool response function. Using this method, valid cement bond logs have been obtained after waiting-on-cement times of less than 24 hours.
Introduction
The Cement Bond Log (CBL) was introduced in the early 1960’s as a method to determine the quality of primary cement.’ Since its introduction, it has undergone a number of improvements in both the hardware used to make the measurements and the interpretation of the data. These refinements have improved its value as a diagnostic tool for analyzing primary cement problems.
A major concern when running a CBL is the waiting-on-cement (WOC) time required before logging. WOC times of 24, 36, and 72 hours have been recommended for various cement slurries and well conditions. The 72-hour WOC time is commonly used since most cement slurries should have developed 80-90% of their ultimate compressive strength by this time. These WOC times are, however, only estimates and do not account for either the setting characteristics of specific cement slurries or the response function of the CBL tool.
When a CBL is run without adequate WOC time after a primary cementing operation, the log will not be representative of the true quality of the cement sheath. If this log is interpreted and used to make engineering decisions, unnecessary remedial operations may be performed.
In situations where either a drilling rig is performing the completion operations or prompt performing the completion operations or prompt completion is desired, the WOC time required before running a CBL could affect the time required for well completion. The WOC time is particularly important for drilling rigs operating in isolated land locations and on offshore platforms. This paper demonstrates a technique to record a valid paper demonstrates a technique to record a valid CBL as soon as possible after cementing thereby minimizing idle rig time.
The minimum WOC time required before running a CBL is a function of two factors: cement slurry compressive strength development, and CBL tool response. These two factors are accounted for by the method described in this paper. The method does not presuppose any particular WOC time. The WOC time is strictly a function of the foregoing factors and may be greater than or less than the rule-of-thumb 72 hours, depending on the particular situation.
To be valid, a CBL must fulfill two criteria:
o Technically correct
o Response not a function of time
The requirements for a technically correct CBL are documented adequately in available literature and will not be discussed. For a CBL to be useful , the response that is observed in a log run soon after cementing should be the sane, within error, as that obtained when a log is run at a longer time, i.e., when the cement has reached its estimated ultimate compressive strength (EUS). When this criterion is fulfilled, the engineer may be reasonably assured that the interpretation applied to the CBL is valid within the limitations of the technique.


#7408

A Primer for plaintiff’s attorneys when cross examining BP personnel

Well cementing basics.
http://gekengineering.com/Downloads/Free_Downloads/Cementing.pdf


#7409

Susan Buchanan: Halliburton Rests Its Case In Gulf Spill Trial After Cement Work With Jesse Gagliano Testimony

(This article was published in “The Louisiana Weekly” in the April 8, 2013 edition.)

At the spill trial last week, Halliburton staffer Jesse Gagliano said BP rejected several of his recommendations, jeopardizing the cement pumped at the Macondo well in April 2010. He testified in the trial that began Feb. 25 in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, where Judge Carl Barbier is assessing negligence in the rig explosion that claimed eleven lives. Halliburton rested its case Thursday morning but not before Barbier chastised the Swiss-based, oil-services provider for withholding evidence. BP plans to call it first witnesses Monday.

BP was the well operator and leaseholder, Transocean owned the Deepwater Horizon rig and Halliburton was BP’s cement contractor in the April 20, 2010 disaster that caused the nation’s biggest offshore spill.

Three years ago, Gagliano was embedded as a Halliburton technical adviser at BP in Houston, where he’d reported for almost five years. He said last week “my sole purpose was to provide cement recommendations and cement support for BP.” Halliburton was contracted to seal the Macondo drilling hole with cement to keep gas and oil from flowing into the well. Gagliano is now a Halliburton senior account representative after nearly fourteen years with the company.

A week before Gagliano’s April 1 testimony, Transocean capital projects vice-president Bill Ambrose said at the trial that his company’s study found a failed cement job was the “precipitating cause” of the April 2010 explosion.

Gagliano heard no complaints from BP, which had final say on how cement jobs were run on its wells, until Macondo-related friction developed in spring 2010. “For the production casing job, we had recommended a number of centralizers that weren’t run,” he said. “Also, on the retarder concentration I recommended, they decided to go with more concentration.”

>>1. Oil industry practice is to center a well’s casing, or metal tubes, so that channels or paths don’t form in surrounding cement. Centralizers are placed around casing sections to allow the cement to make a strong, 360-degree seal between the casing and the borehole. Without enough centralizers, a channel for drilling mud or contaminated cement can develop, providing a path for a later blowout. A tiny crack can become a gushing channel.

Based on modeling Gagliano ran on Halliburton’s OptiCem software, he recommended that BP use 21 centralizers at its Macondo well to minimize gas flow potential. BP chose to run only six, however. Gagliano said his model showed that using just six suggested “severe gas flow potential.” He tried to get six centralizers to work in his model but “no matter where I placed them and the distance between them, nothing would take care of the channeling.”

>>2. Gagliano also recommended .08 gallons of retarder concentration for every 94-pound sack of cement at the well, but BP decided to go with .09 gallons. Judge Barbier asked if using a higher concentration of retarder meant it would take longer for the cement to set, and Gagliano said “yes.”

>>3. Gagliano suggested a full bottoms-up, or flushing, of BP’s well before pumping the cement job to see if mud at the bottom of the hole came to the surface. But BP decided to pump only a couple of hundred barrels of fluid, rather do the full bottoms-up, he said.

The Macondo well had a fragile formation, and Gagliano’s task was to design a slurry that would work best. He recommended a foam cement slurry and BP agreed. Gagliano said “we had a dry blend on the rig comprised of some additives that were mixed, and then you also add some liquid additives required for the job specifications. You mix it and then you inject nitrogen into it to get the desired weight. Then you go down hole with it.”

The dry blend used on the Macondo well remained on the Deepwater Horizon rig when it was moved from the Kodiak well, drilled in 2008 by BP and partners. "It was leftover cement from Kodiak that was actually just transferred on paper to the Macondo well,"and originally purchased by BP from Halliburton, Gagliano said. He suggested BP use it for the foam slurry he was designing even though “I could have sold them additional cement, which would be additional revenue for us.”

He said the initial dry blend contained Halliburton’s D-Air 3000 defoamer, which is added to cement “to break the air to give it a lot smoother density going down hole.” Cement mixed at the surface can become thick and entrap air, changing the cement’s weight, he said.

In his testimony, Gagliano dismissed industry concerns about D-Air 3000 having a destabilizing effect on foamed cement slurry. He said a Halliburton liquid additive called ZoneSeal foamer was used to compensate for the defoamer. “And then as long as you test it to verify it’s stable, there will be no issues,” he said. The slurry design also contained a retarder. On April 18, 2010, he sent an email to BP engineers listing the ingredients and additives in his design and never got any questions back.

BP has since accused Halliburton of knowing that properties of D-Air 3000 and several other additives in Gagliano’s slurry design, including the retarder or dispersant SCR-100L, should not have been used with a foam cement slurry.

Gagliano said he provided BP engineers with all the test results they requested. A couple of results from the Broussard, La. lab were identified by Halliburton as “invalid” because the slurry was mixed incorrectly at the facility, he said.

He said that before the April 2010 explosion he believed that if the Macondo cement job failed, BP could go back and pump more cement to rectify problems. He never saw the need to call a stop to the cement job, and looking back he wouldn’t have designed the slurry differently. Gagliano–a former U.S. Marine, now in the Marine Corps Forces Reserve–was on the witness stand most of Monday.

Late Monday and Tuesday, Ph.D. mechanical engineer Glen Stevick, Halliburton’s expert witness on blowout preventers, testified. He said the drill pipe in BP’s well should have been centered before the BOP was activated two days after the blowout. Following the April 20, 2010 explosion, the rig drifted and sank, and the connected drill pipe bent so that the BOP couldn’t sever the pipe and seal the well. The BOP wasn’t designed to sever the pipe at an angle, he said.

Halliburton’s final witness, well-design expert Frederick Beck, said Thursday the Macondo well blew out because “the negative pressure test was ignored, and the well was under-balanced and the formation came in.” Responsibility for the blowout lies at levels much higher than the rig’s mud logger and cementer. “It was under-balancing the well and allowing it to flow,” Beck said. Employees of BP and Transocean were reckless and didn’t follow their company’s standards, he also said.

On April 20, 2010, a pressure test–a shared responsibility of BP and Transocean–was conducted to see whether cementing had sealed any leaks in the well. The test showed a discrepancy between 1,400 pounds of pressure on the drill pipe and zero pounds of pressure on the kill line. The test was interpreted as successful when it wasn’t.

Before Halliburton rested its case Thursday morning, Judge Barbier criticized the company for concealing cement samples from the Kodiak well at its Broussard lab until several weeks ago. Documents were concealed too. He said the samples were relevant to the Macondo trial. “This has been drip, drip, drip, drip, where evidence all of a sudden is discovered,” Barbier said.

BP attorneys said they’ll call petroleum engineer Ted Bourgoyne as their first witness Monday. BP hopes to finish its case sometime between April 18 and 23.

Last week, Barbier said he won’t hold closing arguments at the end of this Phase One trial assessing negligence. He’ll allow time for parties involved to submit proposed conclusions at a post-trial briefing. After that, “I may consider whether or not it would be helpful to hold any kind of oral arguments or not,” he said.

A Phase Two trial on the size of the spill is expected to begin in U.S. District Court in September, followed by a third phase, probably next January, to decide damages. If BP is found negligent under the Clean Water Act, penalties will be $1,100 per barrel. But if gross negligence is proven, the fine grows to $4,300 per barrel. And if the U.K.-based company is guilty of gross negligence, it could be liable for as much as $17.6 billion under the CWA. end


#7410

BP calls 1st witness at trial over deadly Deepwater Horizon disaster | abc13.com
http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/national_world&id=9057394

NEW ORLEANS, LA – BP’s first witness at a trial over the deadly Deepwater Horizon disaster testified Monday that the company safely drilled its Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico before a series of mistakes led to an April 2010 blowout, which triggered the nation’s worst offshore oil spill.

“I think the well was drilled safely, basically because standard industry practices were followed. There were no major problems that weren’t properly handled,” he said. "I even noted that they were taking extreme care to follow all the safety procedures with respect to reporting little minor things that happened, like washers falling out of derricks."Retired LSU petroleum engineering professor Adam “Ted” Bourgoyne Jr., an expert in drilling operations, said crew members and BP supervisors on the rig followed “normal industry practices” before encountering problems as they tried to plug the well.

Bourgoyne said he disagreed with many conclusions of Alan Huffman, an expert witness for the federal government who testified earlier in the trial. Huffman accused BP of deviating from industry standards and continuing to drill despite clear signs of trouble.

Huffman concluded that BP repeatedly failed to drill with a “safe drilling margin,” which he defined as the cushion between the well’s mud weight and its fracture gradient. The mud weight must be kept heavy enough to keep fluids from flowing up the well without fracturing the formation that is being drilled.

“One of the things that Dr. Huffman suggested was that the way that the drilling margin was managed presented dangers, extreme danger to the men and women onboard the Deepwater Horizon. Do you agree with that?” BP attorney Mike Brock asked Bourgoyne.

“No, I don’t agree with that at all,” he responded.

Bourgoyne said he believed the drilling margin allegations had no connection to the blowout.

He also disagreed with Huffman’s claims that BP repeatedly misrepresented the well’s pressure integrity test results and gave federal regulators a “very false impression” of what was happening during the drilling operation.

“Did your review indicate that BP conducted an appropriate pressure integrity test at each interval where it should be conducted?” Brock asked.

“Yes, they did,” Bourgoyne said.

Bourgoyne joined many other experts and government investigations in concluding that crew members failed to properly monitor the well and rig supervisors misinterpreted a key safety test just before the blowout.

“They called it a pass when it was a fail,” he said of the test. “It was surprising that they called it a pass. I think the data was clearly there.”

Two BP well site leaders, Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine, are charged with manslaughter in the deaths of 11 rig workers and await a separate trial. Their indictment accuses them of misinterpreting the same test.

Bourgoyne said the BP supervisors and crew members employed by rig owner Transocean Ltd. discussed the test results “as a group” and ultimately “bought into” an alternate explanation for abnormal drill pipe pressure.

“This is very surprising to me, but it happened. And I think it was a group decision,” he said. “They had a lot of confidence in one another, and once they made the decision, they were convinced they were right.”

Plaintiffs’ attorney Jim Roy asked Bourgoyne if a “moron” ought to know whether the test is a success based on the pressure readings.

“No comment?” Roy asked.

“No comment,” replied Bourgoyne, who later added, “I think, in general, this crew was competent and had the appropriate training. Why they made this mistake, you can’t explain it.”

Bourgoyne said the blowout could have been averted if the test had been properly interpreted, but he identified “a lot of contributing causes to this disaster.”

“It takes a whole series of failures to line up for something like that to happen,” he said.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier is hearing testimony without a jury. Barring a settlement, he could decide how much more money BP and its contractors owe for their roles in the catastrophe.

The first phase of the trial, which has entered its seventh week, is designed to identify causes of the blowout and assign fault to the companies involved. Barbier plans to hold a second phase that examines BP’s efforts to stop the spill and quantifies how much oil spilled into the Gulf.

Testimony by BP witnesses is expected to last at least two weeks.


#7411

Ex-BP engineer responds to feds’ “farcical” claims - SFGate

http://www.sfgate.com/news/texas/article/Ex-BP-engineer-responds-to-feds-farcical-claims-4427236.php

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A former BP engineer charged with deleting text messages about the company’s response to its 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico claims federal prosecutors have tacked on “farcical” allegations that he also deleted dozens of voicemails to stymie a grand jury probe of the disaster.

A court filing Wednesday by Kurt Mix’s defense attorneys asks a judge to bar prosecutors from making any references at trial to nearly 350 voicemails that couldn’t be recovered from Mix’s phone.

Mix’s lawyers also want copies of transcripts for the grand jury proceedings that produced a new indictment against their client on March 20. The new indictment added allegations that Mix deleted about 40 voicemails from a supervisor and roughly 15 voicemails from a BP contractor.

Stroz Friedberg LLC inspected Mix’s phone for the Justice Department but only could recover a handful of 346 voicemails that callers left between April 20, 2010 — the date of BP’s deadly Deepwater Horizon rig explosion — and Aug. 20, 2011.

“Stroz Friedberg’s report demonstrates the farcical nature of the newly-minted allegation that Kurt Mix ‘corruptly’ deleted voicemails from his iPhone,” Mix’s lawyers wrote. “Stroz Friedberg’s findings not only reveal a complete absence of evidence for the new voicemail-related allegations, but also illuminate the distinct possibility that the original and superseding indictments against Mix were the products of a structurally defective grand jury proceeding.”

Mix’s attorneys accuse prosecutors of drafting the new indictment to imply “something nefarious” about the alleged voicemail deletions.

“The superseding indictment not only fails to mention that AT&T — and not Kurt Mix — might have been responsible for as many as 253 of the 346 voicemail deletions, but it also misleadingly suggests through use of the passive voice (“were deleted”) that Kurt Mix was the culprit behind those deletions,” they wrote.

Mix, a resident of Katy, Texas, pleaded not guilty last May to two counts of obstruction of justice. The original indictment charged him with deliberately deleting more than 200 text messages to and from the supervisor and more than 100 to and from the contractor. Neither the supervisor nor the contractor is named.

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.


#7412

Electrical engineer says dead battery, miswired switch caused BP Macondo well blowout preventer to fail | NOLA.com

http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2013/04/electrical_engineer_says_dead.html

A New Orleans electrical engineer testified Thursday that a miswired solenoid switch and a dead battery resulted in the pods not being able to cause shears to cut off the flow of gas on the day BP’s Macondo well blew out, resulting in the explosion and fire aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

“What we call the blue pod had a depleted 27-volt battery that did not have adequate capacity to perform the function necessary to close the blind shear ram,” said Arthur Zatarain, a consulting engineer called as an expert witness by BP. His testimony came during the 26th day of the civil trial to determine the liability of BP and other companies involved in the disaster.

The battery’s power was needed to operate the device designed to slice through the drilling pipe in the blowout preventer and seal off the flow of oil and gas.

In a second, yellow pod, it was the solenoid, the switch, that was at fault, he said. One of its wire coils was connected backward, resulting in its electrical charge being the opposite of the second coil. The result was that the two coils’ charges offset each other, and not enough force was generated to open the valve in that pod, again resulting in a shear failing to cut off the flow of oil and gas.

“So you would have a north fighting a south, which you know what that’s all about,” said Zatarain, who conducted a forensic investigation of the control pods on the blowout preventer.

He also testified that the theory outlined by Greg Childs, an expert witness called by Transocean, was incorrect. Childs testified earlier in the trial that the two pods were in working order at the time of the operation, and that a misaligned drill pipe in the blowout preventer caused the shears not to operate.

Zatarain’s testimony was in line with several other expert witnesses called by the Plaintiffs Steering Committee and the Justice Department, several of whom participated in tests of the pods and their components after the accident. Childs said that conclusions that the 27-volt battery was dying or dead at the time of the accident was incorrect, and that the battery actually died while “cycling” with two other, 9-volt batteries during the months following the accident.

But Zatarain said all three batteries would have had their power drained only for a few seconds when operated, and that the two 9-volt batteries in the same pod were charged. Documents shown Zatarain during his testimony also confirmed that the larger battery hadn’t been replaced since November 2007, even though Cameron International, the blowout preventer manufacturer, recommended they be replaced at least yearly.

Zatarain’s testimony is part of BP’s strategy to show that others share blame for the disaster that killed 11 workers and began the three-month-long release of 4.1 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, which might convince U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier Jr., who is hearing the evidence without a jury, not to find that the company was grossly negligent in its own actions. If found grossly negligent, BP could face a four-fold increase in Clean Water Act fines, and might also be liable for payment of punitive damages to private claimants.

During opening questioning aimed at explaining his credentials as an expert, Zatarain was asked whether he was related to the family that operates the well-known spice company.

“I’m ancestrally connected, but not financially connected, but I do maintain that large sign across the street as part of my duties,” he said.

The trial recessed until Monday, when BP will call at least three more witnesses.


#7413

Link To Daily BP TRIAL TRANSCRIPTS
http://www.mdl2179trialdocs.com/


#7414

BP Official Says He Wasn’t to Blame for Rig Explosion - Businessweek
http://www.businessweek.com/news/2013-04-15/bp-official-says-oil-rig-crew-raised-no-safety-concerns

The BP Plc (BP/) official who oversaw operations at the Macondo well testified he wasn’t responsible for the fatal blast that ripped through the rig and sent millions of barrels of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico.

John Guide, the well-team leader for the Macondo project, denied yesterday that he made drilling decisions, including to forgo extra well stabilizers, that critics contend may have increased the chances of an explosion. Guide said those decisions were made by other BP officials.

“I don’t think I did anything to cause the blowout,” Guide told U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans. “I don’t think I could have done anything different.”

Lawyers for the U.S. and oil-spill victims contend in the non-jury trial that BP was over budget and behind schedule on the deep-water Macondo well off the Louisiana coast, prompting the oil company to cut corners and ignore safety tests showing the well was unstable.

Guide offered his testimony as Barbier began overseeing the eighth week of a trial in which spill victims and the U.S. are asking him to determine liability for the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the resulting offshore spill, the worst in U.S. history.

Liability Trial
The April 20, 2010, blast killed 11 workers and sent waves of oil into the Gulf, killing fish and waterfowl. The accident sparked hundreds of lawsuits against well owner BP; Houston- based Halliburton Co. (HAL); and Vernier, Switzerland-based Transocean Ltd. (RIG), the Deepwater Horizon’s owner.

The liability trial began Feb. 25. Barbier must decide whether one or more of the companies acted with willful or wanton misconduct or reckless indifference – the legal requirement for establishing gross negligence.

For London-based BP, a finding of gross negligence would mean the company might be liable to the U.S. for more than $17 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.

Transocean and Halliburton could be held liable for punitive damages for all plaintiffs if the companies are found to have handled their duties on the rig in a grossly negligent manner.

The government and spill victims also allege Halliburton’s cement job was defective and that Transocean employees made a series of missteps on the rig, including disabling safety systems, failing to properly maintain the installation and not adequately training its crew to handle crisis situations.

Safety Issues
Lawyers for the government and spill victims produced witnesses earlier in the trial to testify BP officials misled federal regulators about conditions at the Macondo well and forged ahead with “unsafe and dangerous” drilling operations before the fatal explosion.

Guide, a Houston-based engineer who served as drilling superintendent of the Deepwater Horizon from April 2009 until the time of the accident, is accused of making decisions about the well’s handling that have been criticized by other witnesses in the case and in outside probes of the explosion and spill.

Steve Robinson, BP’s vice president of drilling and completion, testified last week that Guide overrode a BP engineering team’s recommendations to triple the number of stabilizers used in the well and to clear the hole of debris before it was sealed with cement.

Both procedures could have ensured a better cement job and that could have helped seal the well against leaks, multiple witnesses have said during the trial.

‘Engineering Practice’
Guide countered in his testimony yesterday that there is no set rule on the number of stabilizers, or centralizers, required to help secure the drilling line and such equipment can make it hard for safety systems designed to prevent blowouts to operate properly.

Guide said the extra centralizers also weren’t the right type, weren’t on-site and would have taken ten hours to install, leaving the drilling hole open during that time.

“I just don’t think that’s good engineering practice,” he said. No one from the engineering team expressed concerns about forgoing the additional centralizers, Guide added.

“Was your decision, engineering judgment, based on the cost of these centralizers?” Hariklia “Carrie” Karis, a lawyer for BP, asked him. “No, not at all,” Guide answered.

In making this decision, “do you believe you were increasing the risk of a blowout?” Karis asked. “No,” Guide replied.

‘Wasn’t Me’
Robert Cunningham, an attorney for victims suing BP over damages from the worst offshore spill in U.S. history, pressed the engineer about the drilling decisions that experts have focused on in attempting to pinpoint a cause for disaster. Guide said other BP colleagues made the decisions on specific drilling issues that later were called into question.

“None of these things occurred as a result of anything you as well-team leader did or didn’t do, it was somebody else, right?” Cunningham asked. “Well, I don’t know, you know, what the conclusion was, but it wasn’t me,” Guide responded.

Guide acknowledged that as well supervisor, he was responsible for drilling operations in addition to all health and safety issues related to the project.

“So Mr. Guide, the rig, for which you were accountable for safety and operations, explodes, sinks and 11 people die, and you had nothing to do with it?” Cunningham asked. “That’s right,” the supervisor 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).


#7415

BP Manager Cites Rig’s Safety-System Delay as Trial Ends - Bloomberg


By Allen Johnson Jr., Jef Feeley & Laurel Brubaker Calkins - Apr 17, 2013
A BP Plc (BP/) executive testified the captain of the oil rig that exploded and sent millions of barrels of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico dragged his feet in activating the installation’s safety systems after the blast as a trial over the disaster ended.
Patrick O’Bryan, BP’s former vice president of Gulf drilling operations, told a judge in New Orleans today Transocean Ltd. employee Curt Kuchta, captain of the Deepwater Horizon rig, told crew members not to initiate safety systems without permission from the installation’s top drilling manager.
That meant the safety systems weren’t activated until minutes after the explosion ignited the rig’s drilling floor and knocked out power, said O’Bryan, one of BP’s last witnesses in the case. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans, who heard eight weeks of testimony in the non-jury trial, said he’d decide fault for the disaster later.
“So after you see the fire, you recall somebody asking Captain Kuchta about” activating the blowout preventer and other safety systems, BP lawyer Hariklia “Carrie” Karis asked O’Bryan today in a liability trial over the spill.
Kuchta was “pretty emphatic” that he needed the drilling specialist’s permission to implement the systems, O’Bryan recalled. Several minutes passed before another crew member acted, he added.
Safety Sacrificed?
Lawyers for the federal government and spill victims contend in the nonjury trial that BP was over budget and behind schedule on the Macondo well off the Louisiana coast, prompting the company to cut corners and ignore safety tests showing the well was unstable.
The April 20, 2010, blast killed 11 workers and sent waves of oil into the Gulf, killing fish and waterfowl. The accident, which created the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, sparked hundreds of lawsuits against well owner BP; Houston- based Halliburton Co. (HAL); and Vernier, Switzerland-based Transocean, the Deepwater Horizon’s owner.
The liability trial began Feb. 25. Barbier must decide 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 might be liable to the U.S. for more than $17 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.
Rig Contractors
Transocean (RIG) and Halliburton could be held liable for punitive damages for all plaintiffs if the companies are found to have handled their duties on the rig in a grossly negligent manner. Both were hired as contractors by BP to work on the Macondo well project.
The government and spill victims also allege that Halliburton’s cement job was defective and that Transocean employees made a series of missteps, including disabling safety systems, failing to maintain the installation properly and not adequately training its crew to handle crisis situations.
O’Bryan testified he decided to travel to the Deepwater Horizon in April 2010 – his first-ever visit to an off-shore oil rig – because the installation “was one of the better rigs in Transocean’s fleet” in terms of its safety record.
After touring the rig, O’Bryan was standing with Kuchta on the rig’s bridge when the installation was rocked by two explosions, the executive recalled.
‘Shaking Violently’
“All of a sudden, the rig started shaking violently,” O’Bryan said. Shortly afterward, the installation was shaken by the explosions, the executive said. “You could actually hear a hissing noise and then there was an explosion.”
Some injured crew members came to the bridge and said the rig was on fire, he recalled. At that point, he donned a life vest, O’Bryan said.
After crew members asked whether the Deepwater Horizon’s blowout preventer and Emergency Disconnect System had been activated, Kuchta said they couldn’t throw the safety switches without a direct order from the rig’s top drilling manager.
That manager, Jimmy Harrell, was injured in the blast and didn’t get to bridge until several minutes after the blast sparked a fire and left the rig without power, according to earlier testimony in the case.
Captain’s Inaction
“In those few minutes, however many minutes they were before Mr. Harrell got there, did Captain Kuchta at any time indicate that anybody should take any action to activate the blowout preventer?” Karis, BP’s lawyer, asked O’Bryan. “Did he in fact say the exact opposite?”
“Yes,” O’Bryan told Barbier. The executive said when Harrell finally arrived on the bridge, Harrell’s first words were to ask whether the safety systems had been activated.
“Jimmy asked had the emergency disconnect system been activated, and Captain Kuchta said no,” said O’Bryan, who was on the Deepwater Horizon bridge at the time of the disaster. “He said, ‘we need to activate it,’ and somebody reached over and hit the button.”
O’Bryan added that Kuchta was surprised when the rig lost power after the explosions and seemed at a loss about how to address the crisis. “I heard him say, this can’t be happening, we’ve lost power,” the executive recalled. “It just appeared to me that he wasn’t quite sure what to do.”
Not Fit
Andrew Mitchell, a veteran ship’s captain who testified for BP as the final witness in the case, told Barbier Kuchta’s inability to respond quickly to the blowout squandered precious seconds that limited the crews’ options in dealing with the fallout from the blast.
“Isn’t it true that every second wasted by the captain of this vessel not reacting to this serious emergency made that emergency more difficult to manage?” asked Conrad “Duke” Williams, a lawyer for spill victims. Mitchell agreed with Williams’s description of Kuchta’s actions.
“In your opinion, Captain Mitchell, was Captain Kuchta fit to be master of the Deepwater Horizon?” the attorney asked. Mitchell replied Kuchta wasn’t fit to be the rig’s commander.
Kuchta, along with Harrell, the rig’s top drilling supervisor, refused to testify in the case. Both men invoked their constitutional right against self-incrimination, as did more than a dozen other BP and Transocean employees associated with the Macondo project.
Second Phase
Barbier said after testimony in the case ended today he’ll study post-trial briefs submitted by both sides before ruling on the liability issues.
In September, Barbier will hear testimony in a second phase of the litigation to determine how much oil gushed into the Gulf during the spill. Coupled with the judge’s liability findings, that spilled-oil calculation will determine the size of any federal pollution fine BP and its contractors may have to pay.
BP and the federal government have offered different calculations on the size of the spill, which regulators peg at more than 4.1 million barrels. The court has already approved BP’s request to be credited with having collected and disposed of about 810,000 barrels that spewed from the well. That could reduce the maximum $17 billion fine BP may face by as much as $3.4 billion.
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).


#7416

BBC News: Deepwater Horizon’s lingering effects on the Grand Isle, La. area

Interactive video, an interesting new presentation format.

http://www.wirewax.com/embed/7004959/FFFFFF/fullscreen


#7417

[QUOTE=Infomania;106279]BBC News: Deepwater Horizon’s lingering effects on the Grand Isle, La. area

Interactive video, an interesting new presentation format.

http://www.wirewax.com/embed/7004959/FFFFFF/fullscreen[/QUOTE]

That was nice, thanks for posting it.


#7418

Halliburton Sets Aside $1 Billion For Gulf Deal
http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/news/article.asp?docKey=600-201304221921DOWJONESENRGYSVC000745-1¶ms=timestamp||04/22/2013%207:21%20PM%20ET||headline||Halliburton%20Sets%20Aside%20%241%20Billion%20For%20Gulf%20Deal||docSource||Dow%20Jones%20and%20Company%2C%20Inc.||provider||ACQUIREMEDIA||bridgesymbol||US;HAL&ticker=HAL

(FROM THE WALL STREET JOURNAL 4/23/13)

Halliburton Co. said Monday it is in advanced stages of talks to settle private claims stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, and it is setting aside an additional $1 billion to pay for a possible deal.

The oil-field-services company added $1 billion, or $637 million after taxes, to reserves tied to litigation involving the explosion at a BP PLC well in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. That is on top of the $300 million pretax reserve it had set aside last year for spill litigation.

Though the increased reserve made the quarter an unprofitable one for Halliburton, analysts said the company’s operations were strong and they were pleased to see progress toward resolving the Deepwater Horizon claims.

“We are pursuing these settlement discussions because we believe that an early and reasonably valued resolution is in the best interests of our shareholders,” Chairman and Chief Executive Dave Lesar said.

The company’s most recent offer to settle civil claims with a range of Gulf Coast businesses and individuals who say they were affected by the accident includes stock and cash, which would be paid over a period of time. The reserve estimate doesn’t include what Halliburton may recover through insurance.

The increase in spill-related charges and notice of the negotiations comes just days after the end of the first phase of a trial to determine the degree to which BP, Transocean Ltd. and Halliburton were liable for the deadly April 20, 2010, blowout on a drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP argued that a series of mistakes made by several of the companies led to the accident, but Halliburton argued BP had the final say on all project decisions and ignored advice on how to safely construct the well.

A number of observers say the trial didn’t help Halliburton’s arguments, however. Testimony revealed Halliburton officials knew the cement mix used on the well wasn’t the best choice and that the company threw away post-accident test results. Twice Halliburton was admonished by the judge overseeing the case for introducing evidence that should have been turned over more than a year ago.

Halliburton Chief Financial Officer Mark McCollum said during a conference call Monday that the company believes it has sound legal arguments. “If the settlement discussions are not successful, we’re fully prepared to see this matter to conclusion in the courts,” he said.

Halliburton hasn’t been charged criminally in the case.

Halliburton executives declined to take questions about settlement talks during a conference call with analysts after earnings came out.

Including what it set aside relating to the Deepwater Horizon litigation, Halliburton reported a loss of $18 million, or two cents a share, compared with a profit of $627 million, or 68 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue increased 1.5% to $6.97 billion as international revenue climbed 21%, offsetting an 11% decline in North America revenue


#7419

NEW ORLEANS: Oil spill judge: What is gross negligence? - Florida Wires - MiamiHerald.com

http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/04/24/3362990/oil-spill-judge-what-is-gross.html

Oil spill judge: What is gross negligence
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
NEW ORLEANS – The judge who will allocate responsibility for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill has told lawyers to give him their views about whether a series of negligent acts can add up to gross negligence.
The Justice Department and private plaintiffs’ attorneys contend that BP PLC acted with gross negligence before the blowout on April 20, 2010. If U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier agrees, BP’s civil penalties could soar.

The blowout triggered an explosion that killed 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf. Barbier ultimately could decide how much more money BP, cement contractor Halliburton and rig owner Transocean Ltd. owe for their roles in the catastrophe.

The judge, who heard eight weeks of testimony, set June 21 as the deadline for post-trial briefs, listing six questions about gross negligence that he wants answered. Lawyers must also submit proposed findings and conclusions then.

BP has pleaded guilty to manslaughter and other criminal charges and agreed to pay $4 billion in criminal penalties. The company says it has racked up a total of more than $24 billion in spill-related expenses, including cleanup costs and compensation for businesses and individuals.

But the company still faces billions more in civil claims by the federal government and Gulf Coast states under the Clean Water Act, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and other environmental regulations.

Halliburton lawyers said Monday they are seeking a settlement.

Barbier asked the standard for finding gross negligence or willful misconduct under each law, and whether gross negligence must be traced to at least one act or can be based on “an accumulation or a series of negligent acts or omissions.”

He also asked whether rig employees could commit gross negligence, or whether such a finding would need to be traced “to shore-based or management-level employees.”

Would compliance with regulations shield a defendant from gross negligence, even if it knew “its conduct or equipment was unsafe, or violated accepted engineering standards?” he asked. And, he asked, “Does the fact that a party acted in accordance with ‘industry standards’ preclude a finding of gross negligence?”

The response deadline is July 12.

Barbier set page limits for the parties involved, including the the states of Alabama and Louisiana and the team of private lawyers for Gulf Coast businesses and residents who claim they lost money because of the spill. The states can submit separate briefs and responses but must join the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee on the proposed findings and conclusions, he wrote.

The first phase of trial was intended to identify the causes of the blowout of BP’s Macondo well and assign fault to the companies. The second phase, designed to determine how much crude spilled into the Gulf and what BP did to stop it, is scheduled to start in September.


#7420

Fuel Fix » Transocean ordered to turn over Deepwater Horizon docs


A federal judge on Thursday ordered Transocean to comply with federal subpoenas seeking records that could shed more light on the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The decision by Houston-based U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal gave Transocean 30 days to turn over documents and other information to the Chemical Safety Board, the last major entity investigating the accident. She also ordered Transocean to pay legal costs for the United States’ winning bid to defend the subpoenas in court.

At issue are five subpoenas that the safety board issued to Transocean in 2010 and 2011 while that independent federal agency sought to learn more about the explosion of the company’s Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico. When Transocean asked the federal court to dismiss those subpoenas, the Justice Department intervened to argue on behalf of the CSB’s authority and the document requests.

Transocean previously argued that the CSB did not have authority to probe offshore accidents and oil spills, and insisted that most of the requested documents had already been provided to the Interior Department and Coast Guard as part of separate inquiries.

A Transocean spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.

Although the federal law that established the CSB says it is not “authorized to investigate marine oil spills,” the agency had maintained that it was investigating the root causes of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion on April 20, 2010 — not the oil spill that came afterward.

And the CSB argued that the statutory prohibition applies only to investigations of transportation-related spills, while the board’s probe focuses on what happened on the rig itself. Because the rig was connected by a riser pipe to a well in the seabed, it was effectively a stationary installation, CSB officials said.

The CSB’s Deepwater Horizon probe ran into early problems, as some potential witnesses refused to testify before the agency. The CSB also tangled with other federal agencies over access to a forensic examination of the blowout preventer exhumed from the Macondo well site.

An independent federal agency, the CSB has probed more than 50 industrial accidents, including the lethal Texas City refinery explosion in 2005.

Currently, CSB investigators are looking into the lethal explosion at a fertilizer facility in West, Texas.

The CSB recently has drawn criticism from some who say the agency is underfunded and taking too long to complete its accident investigations. For instance, the Center for Public Integrity noted that the CSB has not yet issued its report on an explosion at a Tesoro Corp. refinery in Washington state three years ago. The Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general has launched an audit of the CSB.