Monday, June 14, 2010

Dear Mr. Hayward

McClatchy has reprinted a letter to Tony Hayward from the House Subcomittee on Oversight and Investigations:
The Committee’s investigation is raising serious questions about the decisions made by BP in the days and hours before the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon. On April 15, five days before the explosion, BP’s drilling engineer called Macondo a “nightmare well.” In spite of the well’s difficulties, BP appears to have made multiple decisions for economic reasons that increased the danger of a catastrophic well failure. In several instances, these decisions appear to violate industry guidelines and were made despite warnings from BP’s own personnel and its contractors. In effect, it appears that BP repeatedly chose risky procedures in order to reduce costs and save time and made minimal efforts to contain the added risk.
The letter goes on to briefly describe apparent corner-cutting and disregard for industry and even internal standards in five areas: Well Design, Centralizers, Cement Bond Log, Mud Circulation, and Lockdown Sleeve, then goes into some detail in terms of description for each of those in a second iteration.

This is kind of a long and demanding read, but I found it worthwhile for two reasons. First, I don't know much about the physical and procedural details of constructing an oil well and, while I could have really used a diagram to clarify what I was reading about, I feel much better informed now. Second, I am more than a little blown away by the depths of negligence apparently displayed here. For example, the cement bond log would have cost $128,000 and taken 9 to 12 hours, and could have demonstrated conclusively whether the cement had formed a good seal. The Schlumberger team was on board to conduct the test, but was told "their services would not be required," and departed even before pressure checks were carried out. So while I found the letter slow going, it condenses and clarifies a great deal of information I hadn't really grasped before.

As the letter politely concludes,
During your testimony before the Committee, you will be asked about the issues raised in this letter. This will provide you an opportunity to respond to these concerns and clarify the record. We appreciate your willingness to appear and your cooperation in the Committee’s investigation.
I don't feel the least bit sorry for Hayward. I don't doubt that there will be an infuriating degree of bobbing, weaving, and dodging. I'm confident there will be one or two classic Hayward gaffes... at a minimum. But I'm very, very grateful I won't be in his shoes Thursday morning.

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