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Gulf oil spill: Hearing focuses on BP decision maker

August 27, 2010 |  2:13 pm

Federal investigators are honing in on the role that BP’s Houston operations had in possible design flaws that may have contributed to the April 20 Deepwater Horizon well blowout.

In particular, they are focusing on John Guide, a Houston-based supervisor who BP workers say was the main official with authority over the well design.

“What was interesting to me is that [two BP executives] have pointed at Mr. John Guide, the well-team leader, as the decision maker,” U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Hung Nguyen, the lead investigator, said at a joint U.S. Coast Guard-Interior Department hearing in Houston. “If that is true, that is a huge responsibility for one position and on one man.”

A witness confirmed this week that Guide was aware of well-documented maintenance problems aboard the oil rig, leased from Transocean. And in testimony Friday, BP drilling engineer Brett Cocales said it was Guide who had given the order to use fewer safety devices in the oil well, known as centralizers, than were recommended by a contractor.

Cocales said two other drilling engineers in the BP Houston office, Mark Hafle and Brian Morel, were responsible for designing the well and recommended that fewer safety devices be used.

Both Hafle and Morel refused to testify this week, invoking their 5th Amendment right not to incriminate themselves.

Previous testimony has shown that Halliburton, a contracting company, warned BP two days before the explosion that BP’s well design could result in a “severe” gas flow problem.

-- Rong-Gong Lin II in Houston

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