Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Deepwater Horizon - Six Centralizers Were Enough

When we last discussed the Deepwater Horizon on The American Thinker, Halliburton Under the Microscope, there were some comments about how the blowout could not be Halliburton’s fault because BP used only 6 centralizers instead of the recommended 21 centralizers. I can understand the confusion because the Obama administration blocked the Interior Department lead investigator, who did have subpoena power, from testifying before Congress on the results of their investigation so the word did not get out. So let me quote from page 49 (pg 53 of the PDF file) of the investigative report itself.

The Panel found no evidence that BP’s decision to use 6 centralizers rather than the 21 recommended by Halliburton was a cause of the blowout.

Notice how unequivocal that statement is! Also note that this was issued by Ken Salazar’s Interior Department, he of the illegal six month drilling moratorium , who boasted that he would “keep our boot on the neck of British Petroleum” . The Deepwater Horizon has already cost Energy Czarina Carol Browner her job and has Energy Secretary Steven Chu in hiding as his Solyndra problems pile on. Could Ken Salazar be next on the path to the ash heap of history?

Let’s delve into the engineering facts! The public was fed a story based on some internal BP emails that was consistent with the Halliburton excuse, the cement failed because BP used too few centralizers. The tone of one email by BP drilling engineer, Brett Cocales, was tone deaf to how the public would react if it heard it, particularly when the government truncated the email to destroy its full meaning. What the public was given read

“But, who cares, it’s done, end of story. Will probably be fine and we’ll get a good cement job.”

The truncated part reads

“I would rather have to squeeze than get stuck above the [wellhead]. So Guide is right on the risk/reward equation.”

So the decision regarding the number of centralizers came down to a choice between using 21 centralizers and risking getting a 13,000 foot long production casing stuck in the well and being unable to move to free it, or using 6 centralizers where they might have to do a routine remedial “squeeze job”. Either choice carried extra costs, but the 21 centralizer scheme had greater risks while the 6 centralizer scheme had the minimal risk of having to perform a routine task entailing only extra costs in time and money. That was not the way the media ran with their government sourced story. Of course we are all still waiting for the likes of Scott Pelley to run the detailed reasons why the Interior Department investigation came to its new conclusions on the Evening News. Perhaps the media suffers from the opaqueness of the Obama Administration, which has hidden the transcripts of the Joint Investigation Team created by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Enforcement and Regulation (BOEMRE) and U S Coast Guard! Go to the Interior Department’s press release and they direct you as follows

More information regarding the JIT investigation can be found at: http://www.deepwaterjointinvestigation.com.

Which takes you here which tells you

This site is not available to the public at this time. Please log in if you are an authorized user.

Gee guys, this kind of obfuscation could make a fellow doubt your claim about being the “most open administration in history”!

Never fear dear readers of AT, we can find the video on C-SPAN! While the videos are quite long, I can help all you TV producers by directing you to some of the pull quotes! From the second of two videos of Halliburton’s engineer who made the 21 centralizer recommendation, Jesse Gagliano, we get this gem in a question posed by retired Federal Judge Wayne Andersen to Mr. Gagliano starting at 1:54:36 and ending at 1:55.27

Judge Wayne Andersen: I want to make sure I understand. The reason you thought there should be 21 centralizers was that if there were fewer centralizers then that might result in additional expense because you’d have to re-pour cement and extend the time before that portion of the job was completed, correct?

Jesse Gagliano: Correct. My concern with running the 6 centralizers was channeling. And my concern with that was doing a remedial job, having to perforate and squeeze the production casing. (emphasis added)

JWA: Right. So at that particular time, in listening to your description of it, I’m not hearing that you were afraid that that gas would cause the whole well to blow up.

JG: No.

JWA: Was that a concern in your mind at that time?

JG: No, channeling does not indicate the blowout of a well. My major concern was, having to do remedial work on this well. (emphasis added)

So Mr. Gagliano of Halliburton shared the exact same concerns regarding the cement job as both Mr. Cocales and Mr. Guide of BP, but he did not understand the practical consequences of the decision BP faced. So he preferred his own uninformed choice over that of BP’s drilling engineers.

BP will finally get its day in court on February 27, 2011. Between now and then BP and its contractors will face decisions regarding potential settlements. To this point both Halliburton and the drilling contractor, Transocean, have been hiding behind an indemnity clause in their contracts with BP that BP is now actively fighting, having removed Ken Salazar’s boot from their neck. Each claims the other is fully responsible for the blowout, but there is plenty of blame to share around! They all would still have to deal with Judge Barbier (“who was appointed to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton in 1998 and who served as president of both the Louisiana Trial Lawyers Association and the New Orleans Bar Association earlier his career” according to the New Orleans Times Picayune).

Now if you TV producers want to really get into the good stuff, the kind of thing that must give Ken Salazar nightmares, go to 1:56:23 to 1: 58:19 where a board member questions Mr. Gagliano

Board Member: I had a couple of follow ups. I still don’t think we fully understand the lift mechanism. Could you just explain briefly again what you talk about when you say the well would experience some lift? And how much lift under 200, 300 psi would indicate channeling?

Gagliano: You are referring to lift while the heavier fluids are moving around?

Board Member: Yes. I don’t think we fully understand that and the implications to channeling. Could you briefly explain it?

Gagliano: Based on the OptiCem modeling, with the 21 centralizers, cement would be, in this case about 17,3(00) would be the planned top of the cement. (emphasis added) With the 21 centralizers in there, you minimize or limit the channeling to get your cement top about where you want it. With the 6 centralizers, channeling occurred. So you are not displacing all the mud out of the well. You see you are actually displacing the cement higher up the well bore because you are leaving mud behind which would increase your cement lift pressures you would see on the job (emphasis added). Did I explain that well enough?

Board Member: Is there some specific lift number you’d be looking for to define channeling? Someone mentioned that Halliburton reported 100 psi.

Gagliano: Again it would kind of hard to determine what the lift was and what the friction pressures were. You know. It would be difficult to see that. I mean, the main concern with the additional lift was we were exceeding the ECD (Equivalent Circulating Density – Ed) at TD that was given to me by BP. I was given 14.7 to stay below that, and the model predicted channeling and it showed that with the channeling we would go over that limit.

The technical explanation of the relevance of this discussion is that if the cement had developed channeling the top of the cement would be above a depth of 17,300 feet. When the government finally completed the relief well, the intersection took place at a depth of 17,200 feet, a mere 100 feet above the predicted top of cement. They found only drilling mud in the annulus when the intersection was made. So there was minimal to no channeling of the cement in the annulus above the pay zone. The cement that failed was below the pay zone where it was subjected to the 999 psig negative pressure test!

The whole government meme of an inadequate number of centralizers and the resultant channeling is a red herring! It did not happen and the government knows that, but does not care to allow those who might recognize that fact testify before Congress.

MacondoGate anyone???