NEW ORLEANS – BP made a series of money-saving shortcuts that dramatically increased the danger of a destructive oil spill, according to documents released Monday.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee released dozens of internal documents that outline several problems on the deep-sea rig in the days and weeks before the April 20 explosion. Investigators found that BP was badly behind schedule on the project and losing hundreds of thousands of dollars with each passing day, and responded by cutting corners in the well design, cementing and drilling mud efforts, and the installation of key safety devices.
“Time after time, it appears that BP made decisions that increased the risk of a blowout to save the company time or expense,” said Democratic Reps. Henry A. Waxman and Bart Stupak.
The missteps emerged on the same day President Barack Obama made his fourth visit to the Gulf, where he sought to assure beleaguered residents that the government will “leave the Gulf Coast in better shape than it was before.”
The breached well has dumped as much as 114 million gallons of oil into the Gulf under the worst-case scenario described by scientists – a rate of more than 2 million a day. BP has collected 5.6 million gallons of oil through its latest containment cap on top of the well, or about 630,000 gallons per day.
The company said Monday that it could trap a maximum of roughly 2.2 million gallons of oil each day by the end of June as it deploys additional containment efforts.
Meanwhile, congressional investigators have identified several mistakes by BP in the weeks leading up to the disaster as it fell behind.
In the design of the well, the company apparently chose a riskier option among two possibilities to provide a barrier to the flow of gas in space surrounding steel tubes in the well, documents and internal e-mails show. The decision saved BP $7 million to $10 million; the original cost estimate for the well was about $96 million.
BP also apparently rejected advice of subcontractor Halliburton Inc. in preparing for a cementing job to close up the well. BP rejected Halliburton’s recommendation to use 21 “centralizers” to make sure the casing ran down the center of the well bore, and used only six.
In an e-mail on April 16, a BP official involved in the decision explained: “It will take 10 hours to install them. I do not like this.” Later that day, another official recognized the risks of proceeding with insufficient centralizers but commented: “Who cares, it’s done, end of story, will probably be fine.”
The lawmakers also said BP also decided against a nine- to 12-hour procedure known as a “cement bond log” that would have tested the integrity of the cement, and failed to fully circulate drilling mud, a 12-hour procedure that could have helped detect gas pockets that later shot up the well and exploded on the drilling rig.
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