Sweeping the Oil under the Rug: More Chicanery on the BP Spill

Amid a cloud of controversy, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) has just released its final report on the Deepwater Horizon accident.  The report comes as Volume II of a joint release with the Coast Guard (Volume I) by the Deepwater Horizon Joint Investigation Team (JIT).  The Wall Street Journal reported:

The report had been delayed several times and missed two deadlines. Tensions between the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's lead investigator, J. David Dykes, and people at the agency's headquarters in Washington grew contentious in recent months after the report was written by investigators in the New Orleans office, according to people in the agency. At issue was the wording of the report, the person familiar with the report said, but it is unclear if the dispute was over the substance of the findings.

Mr. Dykes left the agency this month after a 12-year government career. Efforts to reach Mr. Dykes were unsuccessful.

It appears that the policymakers in Washington were unhappy with some of the investigation's findings.  A brief perusal offers some insights into how the Interior Department has chosen to spin the facts so as to lessen the political damage.  But a practiced eye can tease out some political bombshells from within the report.

The Missing Oil

As previously discussed here on AT, one key dispute is about the size of the spill.  The bigger the spill, the larger the fines Washington gets to claim credit for.  However, fears about the "missing oil" continue to harm the fishermen of the Gulf.  There is a cognitive dissonance between the findings of the Panel and the way the story has been spun in public.  The report does not delve far into this question other than to repeat the government's claim that 5 million barrels of oil leaked into the Gulf.

There has been no effort to respond to BP's critique of the "Fate of the Oil" report put forth by NOAA.  The government has still failed to respond since it received this critique nearly one year ago, on October 21, 2010.

Covering for Ed Markey

For those who followed the proceedings in Ed Markey (D-MA)'s committee in Congress, some of the conclusions in the report must be bitter medicine.  Remember the discussions in his committee about centralizers, cement bond logs, and the long string versus liner and tie back production casing?

Based on this evidence, the Panel concluded that hydrocarbons did not flow from the production casing annulus cement barrier and the 9-7/8 inch wellhead assembly during the blowout.  [Page 73]

Since the Panel concluded that the cement in the annulus did not fail, it found BP's decision to not perform a cement evaluation log was not a cause in the well failure.  [Page 60]

The Panel found no evidence that the long string production casing was a cause of the blowout.  [Page 38]

Nitrified Cement

As was the case with the reports by the Chief Counsel to the President's Oil Spill Commission, the final report of the JIT finds that the flow path was through the primary cement and up through the shoe track to the wellhead (Figure 8 on Page 66).


This is a critical finding, as it is the same path as was found in two other recent accidents; one was on a Transocean rig in the North Sea, and the other was the Montara spill off the coast of Australia (that nation's biggest spill ever).  With this common thread, one naturally would expect to have heard from the contractor involved, but Halliburton has yet to issue its follow-up report.  BP were first with their Bly report, Transocean has one, the President's Oil Spill Commission has one, their Chief Counsel has two, and the Coast Guard weighed in previously and now has issued Volume I of the JIT final report.  A cynic might think that the politicians are protecting the financial interests of a huge donor over the public interest.

Has the government been "slow-walking" the investigation?  Here's footnote 89 from Page 41:

On August 1, 2011, Oilfield Testing and Consulting ("OTC") completed a forensic analysis of the cement samples mixed to replicate the cement slurries that were pumped into the Macondo well. OTC's analysis revealed a range of potential cement setting times for the foamed and unfoamed cement. Several of the samples tested revealed setting times greater than 18 hours (the time period between the completion of the cement job and the start of the negative tests). See OTC Report at page 30. The Panel, however, found that there was strong evidence that the cement had set prior to the time the rig crew performed the negative test. See [link].

Note that the extended deadline for the JIT report had been July 27, 2011.  Oops -- they kind of forgot to do an analysis of the cement, though they had had the precise samples of cement, water, and additives used in the primary cement job in their possession since the accident fifteen months prior!

The report raises the possibility, first suggested by BP in the Bly report, that there was "nitrogen breakout" from the cement slurry, only to dismiss it later.

The Panel concluded that hydrocarbon flow during the blowout occurred through the 9-7/8 x 7 inch production casing as a result of float collar and shoe track failure.  [Page 74]

So the most dangerous act by the Deepwater Horizon's crew -- using a nitrified cement slurry with a 19% nitrogen content when Halliburton corporate experts recommend using only 3% to 5% nitrogen -- is swept under the rug.  This has been a story where the public is continually surprised by developments based on their expectations given what the politicians had been telling them beforehand.

And all the while, the spinning continues. Do not expect the "Final Report" to be the last word!

Amid a cloud of controversy, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) has just released its final report on the Deepwater Horizon accident.  The report comes as Volume II of a joint release with the Coast Guard (Volume I) by the Deepwater Horizon Joint Investigation Team (JIT).  The Wall Street Journal reported:

The report had been delayed several times and missed two deadlines. Tensions between the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's lead investigator, J. David Dykes, and people at the agency's headquarters in Washington grew contentious in recent months after the report was written by investigators in the New Orleans office, according to people in the agency. At issue was the wording of the report, the person familiar with the report said, but it is unclear if the dispute was over the substance of the findings.

Mr. Dykes left the agency this month after a 12-year government career. Efforts to reach Mr. Dykes were unsuccessful.

It appears that the policymakers in Washington were unhappy with some of the investigation's findings.  A brief perusal offers some insights into how the Interior Department has chosen to spin the facts so as to lessen the political damage.  But a practiced eye can tease out some political bombshells from within the report.

The Missing Oil

As previously discussed here on AT, one key dispute is about the size of the spill.  The bigger the spill, the larger the fines Washington gets to claim credit for.  However, fears about the "missing oil" continue to harm the fishermen of the Gulf.  There is a cognitive dissonance between the findings of the Panel and the way the story has been spun in public.  The report does not delve far into this question other than to repeat the government's claim that 5 million barrels of oil leaked into the Gulf.

There has been no effort to respond to BP's critique of the "Fate of the Oil" report put forth by NOAA.  The government has still failed to respond since it received this critique nearly one year ago, on October 21, 2010.

Covering for Ed Markey

For those who followed the proceedings in Ed Markey (D-MA)'s committee in Congress, some of the conclusions in the report must be bitter medicine.  Remember the discussions in his committee about centralizers, cement bond logs, and the long string versus liner and tie back production casing?

Based on this evidence, the Panel concluded that hydrocarbons did not flow from the production casing annulus cement barrier and the 9-7/8 inch wellhead assembly during the blowout.  [Page 73]

Since the Panel concluded that the cement in the annulus did not fail, it found BP's decision to not perform a cement evaluation log was not a cause in the well failure.  [Page 60]

The Panel found no evidence that the long string production casing was a cause of the blowout.  [Page 38]

Nitrified Cement

As was the case with the reports by the Chief Counsel to the President's Oil Spill Commission, the final report of the JIT finds that the flow path was through the primary cement and up through the shoe track to the wellhead (Figure 8 on Page 66).


This is a critical finding, as it is the same path as was found in two other recent accidents; one was on a Transocean rig in the North Sea, and the other was the Montara spill off the coast of Australia (that nation's biggest spill ever).  With this common thread, one naturally would expect to have heard from the contractor involved, but Halliburton has yet to issue its follow-up report.  BP were first with their Bly report, Transocean has one, the President's Oil Spill Commission has one, their Chief Counsel has two, and the Coast Guard weighed in previously and now has issued Volume I of the JIT final report.  A cynic might think that the politicians are protecting the financial interests of a huge donor over the public interest.

Has the government been "slow-walking" the investigation?  Here's footnote 89 from Page 41:

On August 1, 2011, Oilfield Testing and Consulting ("OTC") completed a forensic analysis of the cement samples mixed to replicate the cement slurries that were pumped into the Macondo well. OTC's analysis revealed a range of potential cement setting times for the foamed and unfoamed cement. Several of the samples tested revealed setting times greater than 18 hours (the time period between the completion of the cement job and the start of the negative tests). See OTC Report at page 30. The Panel, however, found that there was strong evidence that the cement had set prior to the time the rig crew performed the negative test. See [link].

Note that the extended deadline for the JIT report had been July 27, 2011.  Oops -- they kind of forgot to do an analysis of the cement, though they had had the precise samples of cement, water, and additives used in the primary cement job in their possession since the accident fifteen months prior!

The report raises the possibility, first suggested by BP in the Bly report, that there was "nitrogen breakout" from the cement slurry, only to dismiss it later.

The Panel concluded that hydrocarbon flow during the blowout occurred through the 9-7/8 x 7 inch production casing as a result of float collar and shoe track failure.  [Page 74]

So the most dangerous act by the Deepwater Horizon's crew -- using a nitrified cement slurry with a 19% nitrogen content when Halliburton corporate experts recommend using only 3% to 5% nitrogen -- is swept under the rug.  This has been a story where the public is continually surprised by developments based on their expectations given what the politicians had been telling them beforehand.

And all the while, the spinning continues. Do not expect the "Final Report" to be the last word!