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Gulf oil spill: Rep. Henry Waxman focuses on Halliburton cementing job

BPDeepwater Horizongulf of mexicohalliburtonoil spillTransocean


Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) started his inquiry into the Deepwater Horizon oil spill Wednesday with sharp words for BP, the well owner; Transocean, which owned the drilling rig; and Halliburton, which cemented the well:

"This catastrophe appears to have been caused by a calamitous series of equipment and operational failures. If the largest oil and oil services companies in the world had been more careful, 11 lives might have been saved and our coastlines protected."

But Waxman immediately focused on Halliburton's cementing job as the first in a complex chain of events that ended with an explosion and fire April 20 that left 11 men missing and presumed dead and started a spill of 5,000 barrels per day that now threatens the coastlines of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

“Before, during or after the cement job, an undetected influx of hydrocarbons entered the wellbore,” Waxman said. "What this means is that there was a breach somewhere in well integrity that allowed methane gas and possibly other hydrocarbons to enter the well."

Waxman said the well did not pass a crucial pressure test below the blowout preventer, and that a high pressure reading inside the well likely meant there was an incursion of natural gas.

"According to James Dupree, the BP senior vice president for the Gulf of Mexico, the well did not pass this test. Mr. Dupree told committee staff on Monday that the test result was “not satisfactory” and “inconclusive.” Significant pressure discrepancies were recorded.

As a result, another negative pressure test was conducted. This is described in the fourth bullet: “During this test, 1,400 psi was observed on the drill pipe while 0 psi was observed on the kill and the choke lines.

According to Mr. Dupree, this is also an unsatisfactory test result. The kill and choke lines run from the drill rig 5,000 feet to the blowout preventer at the sea floor. The drill pipe runs from the drill rig through the blowout preventer deep into the well. In the test, the pressures measured at any point from the drill rig to the blowout preventer should be the same in all three lines. But what the test showed was that pressures in the drill pipe were significantly higher. Mr. Dupree explained that the results could signal that an influx of gas was causing pressure to mount inside the wellbore."

But Waxman said attorneys for BP have found that another pressure test hours later was satisfactory, and that work on sealing the well for later production was continued.

"What happened next is murky. Mr. Dupree told the committee staff that he believed the well blew moments after the second pressure test. But lawyers for BP contacted the committee yesterday and provided a different account.

According to BP’s counsel, further investigation has revealed that additional pressure tests were taken, and at 8 p.m., company officials determined that the additional results justified ending the test and proceeding with well operations.

This confusion among BP officials appears to echo confusion on the rig. Information reviewed by the committee describes an internal debate between Transocean and BP personnel about how to proceed.

What we do know is that shortly before 10 p.m. – just two hours after well operations apparently resumed – gas surged from the well up the riser and the rig exploded in a fireball."

Cementing problems have been an early focus of inquiries into the Deepwater Horizon disaster. A UC Berkeley scientist told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday that BP documents suggest cement could have been contaminated by "hydrates," or methane and related gases that are liquid under pressure.

These hydrates likely gasified and escaped from the cement, entered the well core and expanded as they rose to the rig, where they ignited in the huge fireball that doomed the Deepwater Horizon, according to Robert Bea, who directs UC Berkeley's Center for Catastrophic Risk Management.

Testimony is continuing before the Oversight and Investigation subcommittee, part of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

-- Geoff Mohan, Richard Simon

Photo: Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles). Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press

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Hurricane Oilmageddon

The real eco disaster in the making is raining oil micro dropletts coming ashore as far away as Texas, the southern states, and large parts of Mexico, as Gulf hurricanes suck up millions of gallons of surface moisture and spilled oil. These micro dropletts of oil will rain down on rivers, lakes, farm land, and cities covering the landscape.

"Oilmageddon," on a biblical scale.

Here we go again........blame Cheney, blame Bush......get a life you liberals!!!! Let me guess....blame the Jews next? How about Rumsfeld? Or maybe Rove? What about Wolfowitz? Just amazing! YOUR president is single-handidly destroying the country and you don't bat and eyelash. Cheney and Bush kept this country safe so you could run around burning your flags.

Mr. Waxman should stick to running supermarkets.....

Waxman is on TV a lot pontificating his self-righteousness, but has he ever gotten anything done?

Another elected idiot moron! The Bush Cheney blame game has to stop! It's never Obama's fault or anyone in power now. Oh no not the great one. Obama is so brilliant he will have the solution. Clearly he knows what to do. Yay Obama will stop the oil spill. He's so smart.

Read previous post by Mike Shellman, president MCA Petroleum Corp

Shellman, great handle! Your post was so bogus it just reeks of oil ...

"Well, you also need BP and Exxon and Shell and the entire Gulf of Mexico and all the brave men and women who proudly do their work every day, often at great risk and personal sacrifice, providing our..."

It's called a job. Nobody forced these people to become servants of these companies. The pay is good and the benefits excellent. Hazards come with every job. It's just that there are more in that profession.

No, we don't need the oil companies. We've been enslaved to their dominion for so long that it is now time to NATIONALIZE energy production in this country so we can get rid of Big Oil and its sham practices. Likewise, digging for more oil is not the solution. We should be 50% oil-dependent by now had GM not killed its electric car project back in the 90s.

ripped off from the huffington post comment section

with regards Mike Shellman

I appreciate your courage or any oil company management coming forward and participating in any blog.


It's my opinion and many others that the size of the leak is being under-reported.

This expert used the satellite images to determine that's the rupture is spewing at least 5 times what BP has reported. And the media needs to quit calling it a spill, as Dr. MacDonald points out -- this is an "Oil Rupture".

Dr. Ian MacDonald is an expert on this kind of stuff -- just take a look at this bio.

He estimates it's spewing 26,500 barrels a day.

And he provides all of his calculations.

Waxrat - The Grand Inquisitor

Gene Buday, Waxman IS "questioning" Dick Cheney. Don't you get that? That's the reason he's going after Halliburton in the first place. It's not really Halliburton they're mad at. What you are witnessing is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to "hit one for the team", protect Obama, and nurse one more drop of precious milk from the Blame Bush Breast.

Sorry, libs, the teat's gone dry. This happened on Obama's watch, and right after he embraced offshore drilling as safe and necessary. Live with it.

By the way, I don't think it's Obama's fault. I don't think it's Dick Cheney's fault. I don't think Waxman has the wherewithal or know-how to change his own watch battery, much less get to the bottom of exactly what caused this catastrophic failure. But, hey, if Halliburton so much as installed toilets on this rig, they're as good a target as any, so go for it, Henry. Meanwhile, folks, expect the price of gasoline to go up and up and UP. This is the cost of saying over and over again, "Let's fight BIG OIL!!!"


@ Jane Kelly

Re-read the article before flying off half-cocked. That's 5,000 barrels per day, not gallons. There's 42 gallons per barrel, so 5,000 x 42 = 210,000 gallons per day.


That's 5,000 barells per day, not gallons. There's 42 gallons in a, 50 x 42 = 210,000 gallons...nice investigative journalism there.

There are billions of barrels of known oil reserves off the coast of California available to satisfy our country's 18 million barrel per day appetite for crude oil, an appetite that will not deminish in the near future with windmills or solar panels or magic green energy tablets that you folks can slip into your BWM's while stuck in 2 hour traffic jams on the 105. But in your infinite "wisdom" out there you say no drilling in your back yard, no sir, not there; find it and produce it somewhere else, just make sure you get your share, cheap. You complain about gasoline prices, whine about electrical rates, sue us in Texas because you think OUR natural gas we send you is too expensive, demand more regulations on this, more environmental restrictions on that, now want to stop all exploration and production tomorrow. Boycott BP? Gimme a break.

The Exxon Valdez was carrying Alaskan crude oil to Long Beach when it went a ground because you won't produce your own crude oil and need Alaska's oil instead. Well, you also need BP and Exxon and Shell and the entire Gulf of Mexico and all the brave men and women who proudly do their work every day, often at great risk and personal sacrifice, providing our country's energy needs, inspite of all the rhetoric otherwise.

The Deepwater Horizon tragedy was an accident, no different that two planes colliding in mid-air over LAX; bad things happen sometimes. There are hundreds of brilliant engineers and well control experts trying to figure this mess out, thousands of good Americans out there at sea and in those marshes doing what they can to make this right. Drilling high pressure, high temperature wells in deep water is complex and the risks are great. This is not like fixing a leaky toilet in a Burbank condo. We know how to find oil and produce it along the Gulf Coast, we have done it for over 40 years without an incident of this magnitude, we'll get this sorted out and carry on supplying our energy needs, your energy needs in the future, smarter and safer.

I say if you good people of California want to point fingers and place blame the next time your stuck in traffic look over at the SUV next to you. Unless you folks are willing to put your own beaches where your mouths are and get your own hands dirty you should keep your uneducated hatred for big oil companies to yourselves , stand back, like you usually do, and let us do the work. We will, proudly.

Brave men died on the rig. Honor them.

UCB Chancellor Birgeneau Loss of Credibility, Trust
The UCB budget gap has grown to $150 million, and still the Chancellor is spending money that isn't there on expensive outside consultants. His reasons range from the need for impartiality to requiring the "innovative thinking, expertise, and new knowledge" the consultants would bring.

Does this mean that the faculty and management of a world-class research and teaching institution lack the knowledge, impartiality, innovation, and professionalism to come up with solutions? Have they been fudging their research for years? The consultants will glean their recommendations from interviewing faculty and the UCB management that hired them; yet solutions could be found internally if the Chancellor were doing the job HE was hired to do. Consultant fees would be far better spent on meeting the needs of students.

There can be only one conclusion as to why creative solutions have not been forthcoming from the professionals within UCB: Chancellor Birgeneau has lost credibility and the trust of the faculty as well as of the Academic Senate leadership that represents them. Even if the faculty agrees with the consultants' recommendations - disagreeing might put their jobs in jeopardy - the underlying problem of lost credibility and trust will remain.

Barrels versus gallons. For the commentors who are having problems with the figures, one barrel does not equal one gallon. 5,000 barrels is approximately 210,000 gallons.

Please pity the wax man. The word Halliburton triggers an involuntary response common among mny of the residents of Whoville.


Seriously, these business men remind me of the jerks that swore nicotine was not addictive! Jane Velez-Mitchell will cover this story tonight--the RIGHT way--on "Issues" tv show.

I'm confused why, with the great reporting here, the spill is mistakenly listed as only 5,000 gallons per day. A small watchdog group revised the estimates, based on satellite data normally only interpreted by «experts», and even the NY Times is reporting the spill at 210,000 gallons per day.

Also, Cheney being too busy as vice president to know what's happening at Halliburton is a joke, right? What was that busy vice president doing? Was he really concerned about the future of our children and our environment?

I can't believe I'm reading negative comments against Henry Waxman here. Are you guys saying you prefer he leave BP alone? It almost seems like as a society we are loosing the ability to even think clearly, when it comes to our reactions to the media and the news. It's almost American to throw rotten eggs at people, just because... Are we idiots?

Why, with such wonderful reporting, is the spill still being reported as only 5,000 gallons per day? The number now reported in the NY Times is 210,000 gallons per day.

Figures.... Waxman wants to lay the blame on Bush....

Waxman needs to get an honest job.

I have an idea. If BP, and Haliburton are serious about cleaning up this mess, why don't they commit to using all company profits, and all executive bonus's for the next, oh, 5 years to clean up their mess? They could fund restoration of the eco system they have destroyed, maybe even apply some serious effort to the science and engineering of avoiding any such catastrophe in the future. AND put together a process for successfull clean up in the future, to be used by all in the oil industry. Oh, right, I forgot they are only in business to take profit, not responsibility.

Silly me.


Nothing is ever THEIR FAULT! Of course not! Who ME? I didn't do anything wrong!

Get over it!

One thing that I read that I want clarification on---that the "fail-safe" switches on the blow-out preventers were actually LEFT OFF! by the preceding administrators of Halliburton, when the CEO was Mr. Cheney.

Also, I would like them to explain how Goldman-Sachs actually made money off this disaster, and how this is all intertwined with the failing economy, which could be a book titled: Disaster Economics or How To Make Money From Screwing Up The Environment.

I'm surprised they haven't also mentioned the fact that The National Energy Policy Development Group, a Bush-era government task force chaired by Cheney, shot down the safety valve that would prevent this kind of accident, required on oil rigs by many foreign countries from Norway to Brazil.

Why was that requirement removed from U.S. regulations? Exxon, Shell, and BP met with Cheney's aides to lobby against it, and it was dropped because the $500,000 cost was too much of an onus on them.

Oil will be what destroys us as people and as a country.

Mr. Waxman also needs to focus on the testimony itself. While these companies, their stockholders, and each of us that buys gas are going to have to pay for this preventable man-made disaster, nobody responsible is going to personally have to face a criminal trial. Mr. Waxman needs to have the Justice Department prosecute to the full extent of the law any individual that lies to Congress at these hearings (and there will be some who do). This should not be a repeat of the tobacco hearings where executives lied to our Congress and were never charged with perjury.

Can we get Halliburton to do a cement job on waxman?

Time for career politicians to exit.

Perhaps this would be a good time for the administration to review every permit and contract awarded to BP, Transocean and Halliburton

What does putting a former CEO of a company on the stand to answer questions for a company's current events matter? Absolutely nothing....and you can't drag a former CEO into a hearing when said actions didn't occur under his watch.

Response to every question: "I don't know Mr. Senator, I was busy being the Vice President of the United States at that time"

I don't like Cheney either but common sense man.

Why isn't Dick Cheney, the former CEO of Halliburton and the man most likely to be largely responsible for creating the means of circumventing apprehension for those associated with drilling for oil being questioned along with the BP gang? You would think that at least one member of either political party would have the guts to get Cheney on the stand, or maybe they all have too much to hide?


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