House panel: BP report IDs more warning signs at well

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, May 26 -- Information received by the US House Energy and Commerce Committee from BP PLC concerning the Apr. 20 rig accident and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico confirms many issues raised at the committee’s May 12 hearing, two of its majority leaders said. The interim report also raises significant new questions, they added in a May 25 memorandum to committee members.

The information supplied by BP in a briefing of the committee’s staff identified several new warning signs of problems before the Transocean Ltd.’s Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible rig exploded and sunk into the gulf, killing 11 crew members, committee chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said in their memo.

According to BP, they continued, there were three flow indicators from the company’s well before the explosion: One was 51 min before the blast, when more fluid began flow from the well than was being pumped in. A second came 10 min later when the pump was shut down for a “sheen” test, yet the well continued to flow instead of stopping and drill pipe pressure also increased unexpectedly. Then, 18 min before the explosion, abnormal pressures and mud returns were observed and the pump was abruptly shut down.

“The data suggest that the crew may have attempted mechanical interventions at that point to control the pressure, but soon after, the flow out and pressure increased dramatically and the explosion took place,” the memo said.

The company’s preliminary findings indicate that there were other events in the 24 hr before the accident which merit further inquiry, it added. “As early as 5:05 p.m., almost 5 hr before the explosion, an unexpected loss of fluid was observed in the riser pipe, suggesting that there were leaks in the annular preventer in the [blowout preventer],” it said.

Excess liquid gain
Then, 2 hr before the explosion, during efforts to begin negative pressure testing, the system gained 15 bbl of liquid instead of the 5 bbl that were expected, leading to the possibility that there was an influx from the well, the memo said. It said that BP’s preliminary investigation learned from a cementer witness that the “well continue to flow and spurted.”

Having received an unacceptable result from conducting the negative pressure test through the drill pipe, the pressure test was then moved to the kill line where a volume of fluid came out when the line was opened, BP told the committee’s staff. The line was opened at this point and pressure on the kill line was bled to 0 psi, while pressure on the drill pipe remained at 1,400 psi.

BP’s investigator indicated that a “fundamental mistake” may have been made here because this was an “indicator of a very large abnormality,” the House committee memo said. The kill line then was monitored and by 7:55 p.m., the rig team was “satisfied that [the] test [was] successful,” it continued. At that time, the rig started displacing the remaining fluids with seawater, which led to the three flow indicators described previously.

The memo noted that BP identified several concerns related to the well’s cementing process. “Cement work that was supposed to hold back hydrocarbons failed, allowing the hydrocarbons into the well bore,” it said. “The float collar used in the cementing process did not initially operate as intended and required nine attempts with higher than usual pressures to function properly. Moreover, the float test performed after cementing may not have been definitive, leading to concern that there may have been contamination of the cement due to density differences between the cement and the drilling mud.”

Procedural questions
Key questions also exist about whether proper procedures were followed for critical activities throughout the day, the memo continued. Negative pressure testing occurred initially on the drill pipe instead of the kill line, where the drilling plan specified it should take place. The testing eventually moved to the kill line where it was ultimately accepted following anomalous results on the drill pipe, it said.

Evidence also suggests that spacer fluid used as seawater displaced drilling fluid did not rise above the BOP to the level required by the drilling plan, according to the memo. “This increased pressure in the drill pipe may have interfered with later pressure testing,” it suggested.

In addition, the method of displacing the drilling mud with seawater may have interfered with monitoring flow levels from the well because the mud was transferred to another boat instead of being measured in the mud pits, the memo said. “Moreover, mud loggers were not informed when the offloading of drilling mud to the other boat was stopped,” it said.

BP’s initial investigation identified several concerns about the BOP, including the failure of its emergency disconnect system (EDS), its automated mode function (or deadman switch), its shearing function, and remote operated vehicle interventions, the memo said. “The BP investigation has also raised concerns about the maintenance history, modification, inspection, and testing of the BOP,” it said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

Related Articles

WAFWA: Aerial survey finds lesser prairie chicken population grew

07/06/2015 A recent range-wide aerial survey found the lesser prairie chicken population rose 25% from 2014 to 2015, the Western Association of Fish & Wil...

Buru awarded onshore Canning licenses

07/06/2015 Buru Energy Ltd., Perth, and Mitsubish Corp. have been granted two production licenses for Ungani oil field in the onshore Canning basin of Western...

Cenovus sells royalty business for $3.3 billion

07/06/2015 Cenovus Energy Inc., Calgary, inked an agreement to sell its wholly owned subsidiary Heritage Royalty LP to Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan for gros...

CERI: Energy, operational efficiencies possible in Canadian oil, gas

07/06/2015 Measures can be taken by operators in the expanding resource-intensive Canadian oil and gas sector to improve both energy efficiency and operationa...

AGL Energy to scale back upstream gas operations

07/06/2015

Gas retailer AGL Energy Ltd., Sydney, says it will exit the oil business and massively scaling back its upstream gas operations.

Macondo settlement seen ‘positive’ for BP

07/06/2015 BP Exploration & Production Inc.’s recent agreement to settle federal and state claims related to the 2010 Macondo blowout and spill improves t...

Court to EPA: Costs matter

07/06/2015 Oil and gas groups did not respond immediately when the US Supreme Court ruled on June 29 that the US Environmental Protection Agency acted unreaso...

Innovation addresses US environmental regulations; more needed

07/06/2015 Technology spawned the recent boom in US oil and gas production which in turn led to new regulations that keep the environment and people safe.

Poor BIA management has hindered tribal energy development, GAO says

07/06/2015 The US Bureau of Indian Affairs does not have data it needs to verify ownership of some Indian oil and gas resources, easily identify resources ava...
White Papers

2015 Global Engineering Information Management Solutions Competitive Strategy Innovation and Leadership Award

The Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global...
Sponsored by

Three Tips to Improve Safety in the Oil Field

Working oil fields will always be tough work with inherent risks. There’s no getting around that. Ther...
Sponsored by

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by

7 Steps to Improve Oil & Gas Asset Decommissioning

Global competition and volatile markets are creating a challenging business climate for project based ...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts

On Demand

OGJ's Midyear Forecast 2015

Fri, Jul 10, 2015

This webcast is to be presented by OGJ Editor Bob Tippee and Senior Economic Editor Conglin Xu.  They will summarize the Midyear Forecast projections in key categories, note important changes from January’s forecasts, and examine reasons for the adjustments.

register:WEBCAST


Predictive Analytics in your digital oilfield - Optimize Production Yield and Reduce Operational Costs

Tue, Jul 7, 2015

Putting predictive analytics to work in your oilfield can help you anticipate failures, plan and schedule work in advance, eliminate emergency work and catastrophic failures, and at the same time you can optimize working capital and improve resource utilization.  When you apply analytic capabilities to critical production assets it is possible to reduce non-productive time and increase your yield.

Learn how IBM's analytics capabilities can be applied to critical production assets with the goal of reducing non-productive time, increasing yield and reducing operations costs.

register:WEBCAST


Cognitive Solutions for Upstream Oil and Gas

Fri, Jun 12, 2015

The oil & gas sector is under pressure on all sides. Reserves are limited and it’s becoming increasingly expensive to find and extract new resources. Margins are already being squeezed in an industry where one wrong decision can cost millions. Analyzing data used in energy exploration can save millions of dollars as we develop ways to predict where and how to extract the world’s massive energy reserves.

This session with IBM Subject Matter Experts will discuss how IBM Cognitive Solutions contribute to the oil and gas industry using predictive analytics and cognitive computing, as well as real time streaming for exploration and drilling.

register:WEBCAST


The Alternative Fuel Movement: Four Need-to-Know Excise Tax Complexities

Thu, Jun 4, 2015

Discussion on how to approach, and ultimately embrace, the alternative fuel market by pulling back the veil on excise tax complexities. Taxes may be an aggravating part of daily operations, but their accuracy is crucial in your path towards business success.

register:WEBCAST


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected