BP well-control boss not trained in ‘well-kill’

BP 103 October 2013, News Wires – BP’s manager in charge of controlling the Macondo blowout in 2010 was never trained to permanently plug a ruptured oil well and said in court on Wednesday the UK supermajor was not fully prepared for the worst offshore oil spill in US history.
On day three of the second phase of a federal trial in New Orleans over the accident in the US Gulf of Mexico, BP’s James Dupree also said “yes” when asked if the company was “starting from scratch” when it scrambled to stop the leak, Reuters reported.

The US District Court trial could lead to fines of more than $17 billion.

BP lawyer Mike Brock sought to show the company was as well-prepared for the leak as any other firm. He also emphasised that equipment needed to cap the well was not readily available in the industry at the time.

The plugging approach that eventually worked after millions of barrels of oil leaked over 87 days, a capping stack, took weeks to build.

“I had no formal training in well-kill operations,” Dupree told the court, referring to the operation of plugging a well. He called the blowout an unprecedented worst-case scenario. “We didn’t have the equipment to attack a Macondo-type event, that’s why we had to engineer so many things on the fly.”

“We didn’t have the preparations we have today,” he said.

The company’s lawyers also sought to reject a central argument made by plaintiffs – which include the US government, Gulf states and contractors Transocean and Halliburton – that BP’s estimates of the size of the leak were unsubstantiated and complicated efforts to control the well.

Internal company emails presented at the trial have shown BP saying publicly that 5000 barrels of oil a day were gushing into the ocean when it knew up to 100,000 bpd could have been leaking.

Dupree said his team was nearly sure at one point that an early capping attempt known as a “top kill” was working – only to be dealt a stinging setback when they realised the well was still leaking.

“We thought we had killed the well…There was a celebration in the room,” he said.

After the failure of the top kill, which pumped heavyweight drilling mud into the well and then put junk material on top of it, BP became concerned that too much weight would cause the well to breach.

That prompted them to scrap another option, known as “BOP on BOP,” that would have put a blowout preventer on top of a similar device.

Plaintiffs have suggested “BOP on BOP” would have ended the leak sooner than the capping stack BP finally installed.

Dupree said safety was a concern when responding to the blowout that killed 11 men.

“I’m really proud of my team,” Dupree said. “We executed all those operations and nobody else got hurt,” he told the court.

BP’s team stressed that the company’s actions during the spill response were co-ordinated with the approval of government officials and that many of its team members were trained to control wells.

Asked if BP was prepared, Lars Herbst, a top regulator for the US Gulf, said he believed the company was “prepared to initially respond” to the blowout and later on “technology and procedures were developed to address that situation.”

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