Document reveals BP chose riskier, cheaper option to seal oil well before blast
WASHINGTON – BRITISH energy giant BP chose a casing for its ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico that was the riskier of two options, partly for economic reasons, the New York Times reported on Thursday.
Citing a BP document, the Times said the concern with the method BP chose was that if the cement around the casing pipe did not seal properly, gases could leak all the way to the wellhead, where only a single seal would serve as a barrier. The other option under consideration would have provided two barriers in case of a gas leak, the Times said.
Several days before the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, BP officials chose, partly for financial reasons, to use a type of casing for the well that the company knew was the riskier of two options, according to a BP document.
The concern with the method BP chose, the document said, was that if the cement around the casing pipe did not seal properly, gases could leak all the way to the wellhead, where only a single seal would serve as a barrier.
Using a different type of casing would have provided two barriers, according to the document, which was provided to The New York Times by a Congressional investigator.
Rig workers and company officials have said gases were leaking through the cement hours before an explosion ripped through BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig April 20, killing 11 workers and sending it to the bottom of the Gulf. Investigators have said the leaks were the likely cause of the explosion, which in turn unleashed a massive oil spill that the company is still struggling to cap.
The Times said the BP document described the casing chosen for the well as the ‘best economic case.’ A BP spokesman, Andrew Gowers, told the Times there was no industry standard for the casing to be used in deepwater wells and that the approach by the Deepwater Horizon had not been unusual.
‘BP engineers evaluate various factors for each well to determine the most appropriate casing strategy,’ he was quoted as saying. Asked in an interview with ABC television whether BP had cut corners by using a type of casing that was less secure but cost less, the company’s managing director Bob Dudley said he was not aware of it.
‘There’s no indication I have that anything was out of the ordinary,’ he said. ‘But this is what that investigation is going to find. We’re going to have to pull apart virtually everything that happened on that rig, as well as the equipment, before we know. And any conclusions are way ahead of the facts.’