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May 26, 2010 10:53 AM by Melissa Canone

BP Was "Taking Shortcuts"

COVINGTON, La. (AP) - Senior managers complained oil giant BP
was "taking shortcuts" by replacing heavy drilling fluid with
saltwater in the well that blew out, triggering the massive oil
spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to witness statements
obtained by The Associated Press.
Truitt Crawford, a roustabout for drilling rig owner Transocean
LTD, told Coast Guard investigators about the complaints. The
seawater, which would have provided less weight to contain surging
pressure from the ocean depths, was being used to prepare for
dropping a final blob of cement into the well.
"I overheard upper management talking saying that BP was taking
shortcuts by displacing the well with saltwater instead of mud
without sealing the well with cement plugs, this is why it blew
out," Crawford said in his statement.
A spokesman for BP, which was leasing the rig Deepwater Horizon
when it exploded April 20, killing 11 workers and triggering a
massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, declined to comment.
BP conducted tests Wednesday in preparation for its latest bid
to plug the leaking well by force-feeding it heavy drilling mud and
cement. BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward said on NBC's "Today"
show that he would decide Wednesday morning whether to allow crews
to try the procedure called a top kill.
Meanwhile, the statements from workers ahead of a hearing in New
Orleans Wednesday and a congressional memo about a BP internal
investigation of the blast indicated warning signs were ignored.
Tests less than an hour before the well blew out found a buildup of
pressure that was an "indicator of a very large abnormality,"
BP's investigator said, according to the congressional memo.
Still, the rig team was "satisfied" that another test was
successful and resumed adding the seawater, said the memo by U.S.
Reps. Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak to members of the Committee on
Energy and Commerce, which is investigating what went wrong.
There were other signs of problems, including an unexpected loss
of fluid from a pipe known as a riser five hours before the
explosion, which the memo said could have indicated a leak in the
blowout preventer, a huge piece of equipment that should have shut
down the well in case of an emergency. BP has cited its failure as
a contributor to the blast.
Frustration is growing with BP and the federal government as
several efforts to stop the leak have failed. At least 7 million
gallons of crude have spilled into the sea, fouling Louisiana's
marshes and coating birds and other wildlife.
President Barack Obama prepared to head to the Gulf on Friday to
review efforts to halt the oil that scientists said seems to be
growing significantly darker, from what they can see in an
underwater video. It suggests that heavier, more-polluting oil is
spewing out.
Ahead of his trip, Obama planned to address an Interior
Department review of offshore drilling that is expected to
recommend tougher safety protocols and inspections for the
industry, according to an administration official. The official
spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the public release
Thursday of the findings of a 30-day review Obama ordered after the
spill.
A new report from the Interior Department's acting inspector
general alleged that drilling regulators have been so close to oil
and gas companies they've been accepting gifts including hunting
and fishing trips and even negotiating to go work for them.
The top kill BP is poised to try Wednesday involves pumping
enough mud into the gusher to overcome the flow of the well.
Engineers plan to follow it up with cement that the company
hopes will permanently seal the well. It may be several days before
BP knows if it worked. Hayward earlier pegged its chances of
success at 60 to 70 percent.
Bob Bea, an engineering professor at the University of
California at Berkeley, said the procedure carries a high risk of
failure because of the velocity at which the oil may be spewing.
"I certainly pray that it works, because if it doesn't there's
this long waiting time" before BP can dig relief wells that would
cut off the flow, Bea said.

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