BP and Halliburton knew cement was unstable — used it anyway to ‘seal’ Macondo well

Halliburton and BP knew weeks before the fatal explosion of the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico that the cement mixture they planned to use to seal the bottom of the well was unstable but still went ahead with the job, the presidential commission investigating the accident said on Thursday.

We’ve long known that the three underlying causes of BP’s Titanic oil disaster were Recklessness, Arrogance, and Hubris. Back on May 9, I noted that an expert reviewer found the well’s cement seal “was probably faulty” and inadequately tested (to save money). Now we have a better handle on the proximate cause, thanks to a new report from the presidential commission investigating the disaster.

And it should surprise no one Halliburton that the energy giant formerly run by Dick Cheney is culpable (see “BP oil disaster is Cheney’s Katrina”). As the NYT editorializes today:

The report has plenty of blame to go around. And it leaves the clear impression that two of the most important players in the risky world of deep-water drilling were doing their job on the cheap.According to the report, Halliburton conducted three tests on the cement mixture it planned to use. All showed the mixture to be unstable and thus vulnerable to the high-pressure pool of oil and gas at the bottom of the well. It said Halliburton provided the results of one of these tests to BP on March 8 and that BP failed to act on it: “There is no indication that Halliburton highlighted to BP the significance of the foam instability data or that BP personnel raised any questions about it.”


Halliburton carried out a fourth, and differently designed, test that suggested the cement slurry was stable. But there is no doubt that the mixture actually used was fatally flawed. The report emphasizes that faulty cement was only one of a cascade of events, including the failure of the blowout preventer. This investigation is far from over. What we know so far is deeply unsettling and good reason for the commission to keep probing.

This is also one more reminder of why the Senate must rouse itself and pass an oil spill bill tightly regulating the drilling industry. The House has passed such a bill, and the Obama administration has imposed tough new rules governing drilling practices, including well design, casing and cementing.

We have already seen how the oil industry can game the rules, and the cost. That is why Congress needs to write them clearly and firmly into law.


Here’s more on Halliburton:

  • Inquiry Puts Halliburton in a Familiar Hot Seat: Halliburton is back in the spotlight, and once again, in an uncomfortable way. In recent years, the giant energy services company has found itself under scrutiny over allegations that it performed shoddy, overpriced work for the United States military in Iraq, bribed Nigerian officials to win energy contracts and did brisk business with Iran at time when it faced sanctions.
  • Halliburton Spill Liability May Rise on BP Well Report: Halliburton Co. may face increased liability in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill after the staff of a U.S. presidential panel said the contractor knew cement it mixed for BP Plc’s well was unstable.

Cheney has the “Sadim” touch — he destroys pretty much everything he gets his hands (see “Has anyone in U.S. history made more Americans less safe than Dick Cheney?”)

Related Post: