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Gulf oil spill: The Halliburton connection

Investigators delving into the possible cause of the massive gulf oil spill are focusing on the role of Houston-based Halliburton Co., the giant energy services company, which was responsible for cementing the drill into place below the water. The company acknowledged Friday that it had completed the final cementing of the oil well and pipe just 20 hours before the blowout last week.

In a letter to to Halliburton Chief Executive David J. Lesar on Friday, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, called on Halliburton officials to provide all documents relating to "the possibility or risk of an explosion or blowout at the Deepwater Horizon rig and the status, adequacy, quality, monitoring, and inspection of the cementing work" by May 7.

In a statement Friday, Halliburton said "it is premature and irresponsible to speculate on any specific causal issues." The company had four employees stationed on the rig at the time of the accident, all of whom were rescued by the Coast Guard.  "Halliburton had completed the cementing of the final production casing string in accordance with the well design," it said. "The cement slurry design was consistent with that utilized in other similar applications. In accordance with accepted industry practice ... tests demonstrating the integrity of the production casing string were completed."

More than two dozen class action lawsuits have been filed after the explosion against BP PLC, the British company that leased the Deepwater Horizon rig, against the rig's owner, Transocean Ltd. and against Halliburton. BP is "taking full responsibility" for the spill and will pay for legitimate claims by affected parties, company spokeswoman Sheila Williams said.

Cement is used at two stages of the deep-water drilling process. It is used to fill gaps between the well pipe and the hole drilled into the seabed so as to prevent any seepage of oil and gas. And it is used to temporarily plug an exploration hole before production begins. At the time of the accident, the Halliburton statement said, "well operations had not yet reached the point requiring the placement of the final cement plug which would enable the planned temporary abandonment of the well."

Experts say cementing is a basic part of drilling, exploration and production of oil on the sea floor. Drill ships or rigs plant large pipes called "conductors" on the sea floor, and casings, or nested pipes, are placed inside of them. The pipes are fixed in place by cement, some hanging inside other pipes, and a drill string is run down a casing, and extended to the sea floor to bore holes.

Mud works its way back up the pipes and the “riser,” a pipe that connects the drill site to the ship or rig above. Or oil is brought up. Cement fixes the operations in place. Cement may also be used to plug a well, pumped down the string until it comes up on the sides, and stops the hole.

Cementing a deep-water drilling operation is a process fraught with danger. A 2007 study by the U.S. Minerals Management Service found that cementing was the single most important factor in 18 of 39 well blowouts in the Gulf of Mexico over a 14-year period -- more than equipment malfunction. Halliburton has been accused of a poor cement job in the case of a major blowout in the Timor Sea off Australia last August. An investigation is underway.

According to experts cited in Friday's Wall St. Journal, the timing of last week's cement job in relation to the explosion -- only 20 hours beforehand, and the history of cement problems in other blowouts "point to it as a possible culprit." Robert MacKenzie, managing director of energy and natural resources at FBR Capital Markets and a former cementing engineer, told the Journal, "The initial likely cause of gas coming to the surface had something to do with the cement."

In its statement, the company said, "Halliburton originated oilfield cementing and leads the world in effective, efficient delivery of zonal isolation and engineering for the life of the well, conducting thousands of successful well cementing jobs each year."

The company, which was once headed by former Vice President Dick Cheney, has been in the media spotlight before -- under under fire in recent years for its operations as a private contractor in Iraq.

--Margot Roosevelt and Jill Leovy

Photo: The Halliburton sign adorns a machine at a site in Rulison, Colo. Credit: David Zalubowski/AP 

Comments () | Archives (38)

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Rig Dog - You say "Many companies had a so-called "connection" to this tragedy." Then please tell me why is it that BP is getting all the blame for the oil spill? It is rare that Halliburton and Transocean are even mentioned on the news, yet alone any other company.

I'm really confused because the Republican conservative base wants government to take less of part in private industry but not our lives, and then they turn right around and chastise President Obama for allowing BP to do what they do best? I don't get that double speak on the GOP part! Either you want what you say you want and stick to that or you have to state that "it depends," on what you feel the role of government is in industry! That would be clear and concise but you don't do that! You whine and complain about whatever Obama does in relation to business regulation; then you blame him for allowing business to do whatever they want to do which is not regulation, which is what I thought you wanted and have moved for since the 1970s so that the BIG three could compete with foreign made autos that got better gas mileage and efficency! If we had the appropriate regulation in place before, we would never have had SUVs the darling big status symbols of those under the age of most retirees. I also do not understand why people do not see the connections between demand and supply, which is basic economics. If we did not demand all those gas guzzling behemoths, we not have to provide so much oil in the first place. Wasn't it stated during the 70's that we needed to curb importing oil from countries that did not like us? Iran broke off diplomatic relations in 1979, but we are still in the Middle East trying to garner their oil so that we have enough to fill trucks and SUVs! Now we find that the imports are substandard which seems to have been a sabotage of sorts, so that we again can sell American made vehicles including the SUVs and trucks. Thank goodness some of us understand how microeconomics works and have been driving the fuel efficient GM brands for years. Until we stem the profits from all these stupid policies that have been inacted or deacted by the rich and powerful, we will never be able to actually have the kind of country we all thought America could be, a democracy, which to me means that everyone is supposed to be able to live and prosper if they work hard. Seemingly, those that do little of the work are the same people who garner all the prosperity while the ones who actually do the work suffer under the strain of oppressive measures designed to keep us down and out of the game!

Come on man gov officials making our laws these oil giants are making laws for people when did Americans become so stupid?

greed and ignorance are a deadly combo.our govt couldnt make the mustang ranch work.when you go bankrupt selling women and booze under one roof you shouldnt be a business man.these bastards are all inbred monsters who dont think the rules apply to them.put em all in solitary for five years.

Failure was not an option.

Failure was not an option.

I do not see it mentioned that the saftey values - DUE TO LOBBYISTS - never purchased: The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Statoil rigs in the North Sea are required by law to maintain special "acoustic switches" that shut down operations completely (and remotely) in case of a blowout or explosion. The US Mines and Minerals Service, under the industry-friendly Bush administration, decided that rigs operating in American waters need not install those switches because they are "very costly." At $500,000 per switch, they now look like an enormous bargain, of course.

"Nobody with BP or Haliburton or anybody else wanted this to happen, for Gods sake. "

These companies did everything in their power to eliminate safety equipment and safety procedures. They maximized profit over safety. They are responsible.

Not one American that drives, flies or eats has a right to judge this horrible tragedy or anyone that is associated with it, particulary not Californian's who will not allow drilling off their own coast but whine like two year olds every time gasoline prices go up or electricity rates increase. We do what we have to do over here off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico to provide energy to America, to you folks over their stuck in traffic for hours at a time; we move into deeper water and drill to great depths under high temperatures and enormous pressures, at incredible risks. Nobody with BP or Haliburton or anybody else wanted this to happen, for Gods sake. What is wrong with you people? Good men died on that rig, good men are working hard to make a wrong now right. You want us to find your oil over here so you can rant and rave about oil prices, about horrible "big oil" and still drive your SUV's... shut up and let us take care of it.

I'm going to start voting republican and "moral-majority" across the board, as well as anyone who supports israel and other arabs. That way they can get thier so-called "armagedon" underway as predicted in the bible sanctioned by king james and the church of england! If you care about this earth and the people in it you will stop people like me from voting!


So, does anyone know which groups are working to clean up the spill and help the endangered wildlife of the area? I am attempting to organize a fundraiser to help with the wildlife protection efforts of the area. Please contact me if you have any information about this.
e-mail: [email protected]

Remember we are 50% for and 50% against anything and everything that goes on in this country? No wonder we can't agree on Halliburton or Cheney or the LA Times reporting on its own Congressional Representatives.

We are looking at one of the worst environmental disasters in US history. If Halliburton is responsible, which is obvious at least from their participation in removing safety equipment from requirements, then they need to be held accountable.

How short a memory do people have? Cheney has had nothing to do with Halliburton for 10 years? No, he is directly responsible for starting the Iraq war and for supplying Halliburton with contracts to clean up, and hopefully to drill for more oil. They have been paid enormous amounts of money with no accountability. Disaster management, it was called.

No kidding. Of the very worst kind. Killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, contaminated their environment with weapons residues, sent in more contractors to clean up and manage the oil reserves - and all that money has been drained out of the US economy.

How about a new approach? We are using resources irresponsibly and polluting the environment we depend on.

The Earth Quakes created the stress on this oil thing-a-ma-jig. That's why the structures fell apart at 5,000 ft deep! Just earthquake proof the architecture (if that's possible) so that the wear and tear is minimal and prevents being jolted apart. However, the earth's slabs are moving, so maybe that was not thought about during the design/build. Whenever there's earthquakes, these underwater structures need to be inspected...just like the Bay Bridges and underwater subway tunnels etc. We've had alot of strong magnitude earthquakes lately, and there's probably been an overall lack of structure inspections, which could've alerted the BP folks to make proactive repairs.

And just a few weeks ago Halliburton happened to purchase the leading oil well fire fighting company called Coots and Boots who just happened to open 2 new Louisiana offices last year.

(it's not a porn link, honest!) [link to]

And Coots and Boots just happened to purchase John Wright Company earlier this year.

John Wright Company- 'Blowout Control Engineering and Relief Well Specialist'

[link to]

Wow, it is glaringly obvious the writer(s?) have no idea what they are talking about, and did minimal research on the subject. But who needs research when you can throw in "Halliburton" and "Dick Cheney" to keep readers coming back for more.

Hey Rig Dog if Halliburton is such a great company why are you not still with them? A large portion of the people they hire are very unskilled. Most people taking jobs abroad with them are in it for the tax free money and the ungodly amount they pay. the skill level they have working for them is 3rd grade. Ask any US soldier in Irac. I would give anything to see the media start looking into Halliburton / KBR. I think if you new just a little bit about them you would not be so defensive of these dirt bags. I can slam these guys and anyone that defends them all day long, what is more disturbing to me is that they will more then likely get away with this, it's just the way it is.

Having worked in the oil industry and previously for Halliburton for many years, this article makes no sense. Once again, the news media shows its utter ignorance in intelligently addressing issues it knows little about. It brings into question the accuracy of any story they print.

The drilling and completion of an offshore oilwell is one of the most complex operations that mankind has ever implemented. Finding oil and producing it 5 miles below the ocean surface is a feat that can only be compared to landing on the moon.
The employees of Halliburton are very skilled and dedicated to performing their jobs in a safe and professional manner. Bringing up the "Cheney Connection" in every story about Halliburton is silly and takes away from the hard working employees that have dedicated their lives to producing this nations energy resources.
No one knows what caused this rig to go down. There we many, many people and firms involved in the drilling of this well, not just Halliburton. Let's get all the facts before judging a great American company. Many companies had a so-called "connection" to this tragedy.
Cementing an oil well is a pratice that has been around for over 100 years. Halliburton was the first company to start cementing oil wells. Of the thousands of wells drilled annually, all are cemented in one form or another. It is a key component of constructing a well, no doubt, but there are also many other key components that could have contributed to this event.

I hope that halliburton and all the others involved are not only brought to justice and held accountable but I want to see them skewered and barbecued. BP all the parties involved I seriously want to see them completely finished not just financially. They are complete scum. What are we supposed to do along the gulf coast? we are all going to lose our livelyhoods and our beautiful beaches. All because of these scumbags. I hope they are tried for what they have done but if there is reincarnation, I hope they will be punished in the second life as well. Words cannot describe the amount of hatred and ill will I wish upon these people every day. May you all rott in hell forever.

``Is there any other company that has wreaked more havoc on humanity than Haliburton?''

Goldman Sachs is first but Haliburton isn't far behind.

Halliburton / KPR are indeed bad news my friend, I respect the fact that you may be an old oil man or maybe not. but Knowing way to much about Halliburton / KPR I'd hold back on defending one of the largest and most corrupt companies out there. It is just amazing that there aloud to exist as a company. The world should black ball them today and never allow anyone from that organization to work again on this planet.

Granada Man took the words right out of my mouth, so to speak, or maybe right off my finger tips. Dick Cheney hasn't had anything to do with Halliburton for over 10 yrs. yet the writers thought it was important to try to link him to this disaster, and then threw in Iraq, just because, I guess. That indicates a liberal bias that was confirmed by Margot responding to the district labels while ignoring the other points he made. Old Oil Man also makes some good points, in that the writers know next to nothing about oil drilling and cement but need to talk about Halliburton who poured the cement at the well. Halliburton might well be culpable in the cause of the blowout, however this article already draws a strong implication to Halliburton being at fault with no mention of BP or TransOcean. But why is there no mention of the 11 victims or the Obama administration's lack of response for 9 days? Oh yeah, I forgot, this was just a Halliburton hit piece, not real news about the disaster.

I hope Bush / Cheney are happy with what their 'not requiring an automatic shut off valve' did now. Probably real proud of themselves saving a buck.

Hey Old Oil Man; Halliburton move it's head quarters to Dubai so they could not be sued here in the states. And that was just because of their war profits.

Which reminds me.
Never elect an oilman president, they can't be trusted to do the best things for there people as they are greedy pigs.

@Old Oil Man: The LA Times reporter may not know much about the issue but I do and I will gladly take you up on your bet.

1) Root cause of explosion: Apprears to be shoddy work by Haliburton re. cement. The simple fact is that Haliburton's shoddy cement work is implicated in nearly 50% of oil well explosions in the Gulf.

When performing a root cause analysis the logical first question is what changed most recently. And the answer is Haliburton's cement work just 20 hours to prior to the explosion. That is certainly a logical place to start looking.

2) The second issue as to the shutoff valve failing was addressed in Friday's Wall Street Journal (hardly a liberal mouthpiece). The oil industry successfully lobbyied Cheney/Bush in 2003 to overturn a 2000 ruling, under the Clinton Admin., to *not* require an override switch that is in use elsewhere in the world, most notably in Norway and Brazil. It is required in those countries to prevent just this type of thing from happening.

Drill baby drill huh?

Response to Granada Man: Since we are a California paper, our readers are interested in what specific district in California the California congressmen cited in our stories represent. Therefore it has always been LATimes style to say specifically, when it comes to California representatives, what their home town is. And it is Times style, when it comes to out-of-state representatives, to cite their home state. We see this as a service to our California readers.

And yes, I checked my spelling....

Who could've guessed that Helliburton would be involved in what has become our holy grail--oil at any cost. I would be LOL but I'm too choked up. I just hope we can cast off the 2oth century fast enough to save ourselves. Either way we're in for a bumpy ride.

First Iraq and now our country....Cheney sure set the bar high with his 'pals'

Well, there you have it: the legacy of corporate welfare-mom Shotgun Cheney bringing post-invasion Iraqi living conditions to the United States...

Anybody not think this was inevitable?

Why not spread hay or straw near wetlands and ocean interface to absorb and bind oil drifts for later removal?

Not surprised that Halliburton is involved, that's what they do, oil production that supports our lifestyle. Was surprised to see that Beverly Hills is now a Congressional District for Waxman, but Stupak represents Michigan in the House. How does that work? Do you proof read this stuff? You have great detail on the cement aspects of oil drilling, failure rates and historicial references, but have Waxman as a the Congressman from Beverly Hills? C'mon, you're journalists now, getting paid for this, so get your facts right all around. But you didn't disappoint, you pulled in Dick Cheney at the end, somehow unable to link it to George W. and Rove. So, are you concerned about the 11 who lost their lives or more concerned about taking shots at Halliburton and good 'ol Dick? The victims weren't mentioned at all in your article, but all your Cliff notes made it in there. Ultimately, you don't make your point, because you don't have one. I'm not defending what happened or those involved, just tired of ad hominem "journalism" being passed of as real journalism. Not everything is political, sometimes it's just life and death.

Waxman and Stupak left Halliburton a backdoor.

They should have made a blanket request for ALL documents relating to the Deepwater Horizon rig.

By specifying types and categories, they've legally left document selection up to "interpretation." A significant doc that doesn't fall under any of the specified headings can now stay quietly hidden away.

I can't wait to see BP define, "legitimate claim".

"In a letter to to Halliburton Chief Executive David J. Lesar on Friday, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce..."

Hey Waxman! Whatever happened to bringing all of the CEO's up to Capitol Hill to have them explain why their comapnies earnings took a hit, when Obummer-Care passed?

This smells like a witch-hunt, looks like a witch hunt and this dude is out of control, instead of focusing in on the problem at hand.

Why don't you investigate why King Obonehead was chastising Wall Street and kicking back for a week, after this blow-out happened?

Time for the voters to retire Waxman in November!

Surprise, surprise! Isn't this Cheney's old friends. Weren't they present at the meeting that removed safeguards?

You people do not have it right. As a matter of fact you are mostly wrong. You do not understand the purpose of the cement. You do not understand the configuration of the well. You do not understand how the well is drilled. You do not understand how the well is constructed. You do not even know what to call items and processes relating to the well to be able to tell your slanted story.
You try to tell your public that Halliburton is bad and they did something wrong. You do not know if the did or did not do anything wrong. By reading your article I am pretty sure you dont know the first thing about oil wells.
If I was going to bet I would bet Halliburton did nothing wrong. It might be a better idea to actually wait and get some of the findings and the facts.

Is there any other company that has wreaked more havoc on humanity than Haliburton?


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