A Halliburton Co. technician missed key signals that BP Plc’s doomed Macondo well was on the verge of blowing out because he was taking a smoking break, a federal investigative panel heard.
We’ve long known that the three underlying causes of BP’s Titanic oil disaster were Recklessness, Arrogance, and Hubris. Now you can add smoking to the list of causes. Bloomberg has the sad story:
Joseph E. Keith, a senior unit manager for Halliburton’s Sperry subsidiary, told the U.S. Coast Guard-Interior Department panel in Houston today that he left his post aboard the Deepwater Horizon for about 10 minutes on the night of the April disaster to drink coffee and smoke half a cigarette.
While he was away from his monitors, pressure data indicated the well was filling up with explosive natural gas and crude, according to charts entered into evidence today by the panel in Houston. Keith said that had he seen the pressure data, he would have “called the rig floor” to warn fellow workers they were in danger.
The April 20 catastrophe killed 11 employees, injured 17, sank the $365 million Transocean Ltd. vessel and triggered the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Millions of barrels of crude gushed into the ocean for almost three months, fouling beaches, fishing grounds and marshes, and bringing deep-water oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico to a halt.
“Without someone watching those crucial data points, the people working on the rig had no way of knowing something was awry,” Robert L. Cavnar, former chief financial officer for El Paso Corp.’s oil-drilling business and author of “Disaster on the Horizon: High Stakes, High Risks and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout.”