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Deepwater Horizon Gear Failed Pre-Spill Test, Lawyers Say

Deepwater Horizon  Explosion
Fire boats battle a fire at the oil rig Deepwater Horizon on April 21, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. Photo: U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images

Transocean Ltd. employees talked about blaming the failure of the Deepwater Horizon’s blowout preventer on a bad cement job, after the device ‘blew up’ casing during a test two months before the rig exploded, according to an e-mail cited by lawyers suing the company.

An employee identified as Jess Richards “states that during a test of the lower annular, Transocean blew up their 22 casing,” lawyers suing Transocean and BP Plc said of an e-mail that the rig owner turned over as part of the litigation. “She then remarks, ‘I’m sure we will find some way to blame it on the cementer,’” the attorneys said in a filing yesterday in federal court in New Orleans.

BP and Transocean face thousands of claims for damages caused by the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, which began when the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank off the Louisiana coast in April 2010. BP is awaiting court approval of a partial settlement of many of these economic-injury claims, which the company says could be worth $7.8 billion.

Transocean has publicly said blame for the blowout is shared by BP and other contractors on the Macondo well –- including Halliburton Co., which provided cementing services intended to seal the well against leaks. The contract drilling company hasn’t settled any spill-damage claims.

“The precipitating cause of the Macondo incident was the failure of the downhole cement to isolate the reservoir,” Transocean said, based on an internal investigation issued 14 months after the Deepwater Horizon sank. In its report, the rig owner blamed Macondo’s bad cement job on faulty decisions and improper well design by BP and Halliburton.

‘Minimal Quantity’

“The resulting cement program was of minimal quantity, left little margin for error, and was not tested adequately before or after the cementing operation,” the company said in a statement in June 2011.

Lou Colasuonno, Transocean’s litigation spokesman, said yesterday he hadn’t seen the e-mail referenced in the court filing and had no immediate comment it.

Beverly Stafford, a Halliburton spokeswoman, also had no immediate comment on the filing. Scott Dean, a BP spokesman, declined to comment.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan ruled Sept. 4 that spill-victims’ lawyers may question Transocean Chief Executive Officer Steve Newman about that particular e-mail as well as other documents the company belatedly turned over in the litigation. She said the victims’ lawyers were disadvantaged by not having seen the memo before they questioned Newman the first time.

The case is In Re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, MDL-2179, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).

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