BP and partner 'ignored' cement flaws

2010-10-29 06:38

Houston - BP Plc and Halliburton Co, the contractor who cemented the blown-out Macondo well, ignored cement design flaws weeks before the disaster that sparked the worst US offshore oil spill, a White House panel said on Thursday.

Both Halliburton and BP were aware of flaws in the cement slurry, similar to the one used to seal the well, as early as March 8, "but neither acted upon that data," according to the National Oil Spill Commission's chief counsel, Fred Bartlit.

Halliburton had run a series of tests that showed the material was unstable, the letter said.

Shares of Halliburton fell sharply after the report's release. The stock tumbled as much as 16% before recovering some losses. Halliburton shares were off 11%, or $3.33 at $31.09 in afternoon trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

The cost to insure Halliburton's debt also jumped on the news.

The industry has developed tests to identify faulty cement jobs in offshore wells, but "BP and/or Transocean personnel misinterpreted or chose not to conduct such tests at the Macondo well," Bartlit wrote.

Tests conducted by industry cement experts show that "the foam cement used at Macondo was unstable," Bartlit wrote in a letter to co-chairs Bob Graham and Bill Reilly. "Halliburton (and perhaps BP) should have considered redesigning the foam slurry before pumping it at the Macondo well."

In an e-mailed statement, Halliburton said it is reviewing the report and will publish a response later on Thursday. A BP spokesperson had no immediate reaction.

The report supports long-standing claims by BP that it shares the responsibility for the April 20 incident with its Macondo partners, including Swiss-based Transocean Ltd, which owned the doomed Deepwater Horizon rig.

BP's Macondo well ruptured on April 20, killing 11 rig workers and causing more than 4 million barrels of oil to spew into the sea.

The spill marred the coasts of four US Gulf states, prompted a ban on new deepwater drilling and left BP's image in tatters in the United States, home to 40% of the London-based oil giant's business.