As of press time, the US Senate and House were preparing to hold hearings over the final report by President Obama’s National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. This seven-member commission and its findings are both undergoing intense scrutiny as the hearings draw nearer.
According to “The Hill,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) has blasted the panel members for not being experts on offshore drilling. “They weren’t experts on oil drilling in the Gulf,” Barrasso told a reporter on CNBC. “It was a self-selected group that really opposes drilling in the Gulf, and they came out with the recommendations that you would expect that group of people to come up with. And those are all things that are going to make energy more expensive.”
Even more troubling are the some findings themselves, which oilfield operations expert Phil Rae says are flat wrong. What the panel claimed was a leak in the annular preventer was actually the result of the well flowing.
“The commission reports the crew on the Deepwater Horizon saw the fluid level in the riser fall, realized they had a leak through the annular preventer, and topped off the riser with mud,” Rae said. “Yet that didn’t happen.”
What did happen was that the pressure increase in the riser was assumed to be a leak but was actually the well flowing to the surface. “If the crew hadn’t assumed there was a leak, they would have likely realized that the well was live and taken appropriate measures.”
He added that the real reason the rise needed topping off was because the casing shoe failed during mud displacement with spacer, so the well lost mud. “This is the actual reason the well went live, and it’s important to understand this nuance if we hope to mitigate the risks of future blowouts,” Rae said.
Another error, he said, is the report’s statement that running a long string rather than a liner was an acceptable design choice. “There are specific reasons BP should never have run a production long string on this well (or any other deepwater well). Yet nobody has voiced these concerns, so we can only assume the same mistake could be repeated any time.”
Unfortunately, Congress in general is even less expert in offshore drilling than the president’s panel. It’s feared that we won’t learn much from this mistake.
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