From the Senate hearing room, the FT’s US political correspondent Anna Fifield reports:
Protestors and lobbyists jostled for seats in the back of the packed Senate hearing room on Tuesday morning.
Some environmentalists with black tears painted on their faces wore T-shirts saying “Energy shouldn’t cost lives” while others in suits worse stickers reading “Protect our beaches”.
As the senators and executives walked in, some protestors, this time in pink, yelled “BP kills wildlife”.
BP was responsible for critical decisions on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, its contractors have said, pointing the finger at the British company for its role in the disaster that killed 11 men and created an oil slick the size of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico.
In prepared testimonies ahead of a Senate hearing on Tuesday, executives from Transocean, which owned the rig, and Halliburton, which was responsible for cementing the well to secure it after it had been drilled, both described BP’s role in designing and overseeing the project, and in making key decisions about technical details.
This is a rather different picture of the working practices on the rig from the account often presented by BP.
If offshore oil rigs are usually explosion-free, and the companies that operate them dedicate significant resources to safety and testing, how does an accident as terrible as the Deepwater Horizon disaster occur?
Much of the speculation about the cause of the has been on cost-cutting, poor regulation, and equipment failures.
Dr F. E. Beck, a well engineering expert testifying at the Senate hearing today, believes that all the usual barriers to a blowout failed, and/or a human error was involved. Also testifying is Elmer Danenberger, a former MMS chief of offshore regulation, pointed to this report he co-authored, which found that of 38 blowouts in the Outer Continental Shelf between 1992 and 2006, cementing was the most-indicated factor, present in 18 cases.
Today’s Senate hearing into the Deepwater Horizon disaster will hear testimonies from three of the key companies involved in the well, a regulator, and an engineer. Though, all point out that it’s too early to know how the accident occurred, the three companies are already homing in on specific issues they believe are most important.
Essentially, the testimonies go something like this:
- BP: Why did the BOP fail?
- Transocean: Were there problems with the cementing and casings?
- Halliburton: We did what BP asked us to
- The regulator: Better testing standards needed for shear ram, cementing and other factors
- The academic: Why did multiple blowout barriers fail, and was there human error?
Coal, the world’s fastest-growing source of energy — and one of its most-polluting — is coming under pressure from one of its biggest traditional consumers, the US, via natural gas and pollution regulations. Meanwhile India is talking about not mining some of its own reserves, for environmental reasons.
So it still seems a little ironic that the EU, which has been the developed world’s earliest mover on climate change, last week signalled it would delay enforcing new pollution standards on coal-fired power plants, pushing the deadline back from 2014 to 2019.
Not only that, but Europe’s own coal demand is recovering to the extent that it is beginning to squeeze Asian prices.
- No easy villains in oil spill
- 28% of Republicans are more likely to support offshore drilling
- Why oil leaks are a ‘weather event‘
- Mother nature may have her revenge on the energy industry…
- How long should BP remain in charge?
- API conference call transcript; TOD’s summary