Sunday, May 2, 2010

Halliburton Sealing the Oil Deal

As a Homestead, Florida native, beach kid and water enthusiast, I think it is time that I chime in the uncontrollable oil gusher. The infamous Gulf Coast oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon rig is becoming an environmental and economic disaster. It is putting BP's corporate green and yellow brand logo so much closer on the greenwashing scoreboard that management is now simply trying to do as much damage control as possible. While the massive oil slick continues to grow, experts continue with their brilliant techniques of skimming it, burning it, and best of all brewing up a chemical cocktail.

But the Coast Guard, appointed by President Obama, to "get in there and get the job done", has brought up a damn good question. Since no one can truly pinpoint how much oil is leaking from the ruptured well, probably 5,000 barrels -- no wait 250,000 barrels per day, etc., because it is a mile deep under the water, why don't we go to the source?

The latest answer has been to send in the robots to scope out the damage or should we say clog? Surely there is something clogging those pipes and some folks are pointing fingers at Halliburton. The Houston based Halliburton was responsible for cementing the drill into place below the water. Of course, they are denying it and saying, "its premature" to make these assumptions. But let's think about two important factors: 1) cement and 2) Australia.

First, an exploration well is drilled and cement slurry is pumped through a steel pipe or casing and out through a check valve at the bottom of the casing. It then travels up the outside of the pipe, sheathing the part of the pipe surrounded by the oil and gas zone. When the cement hardens, it is supposed to prevent oil or gas from leaking into adjacent zones along the pipe. (Source: LA Times). It's fairly simple the cement is used to fill the gaps between the well and the hole and secondly it acts like a temporary plug before full production begins. More interesting, cement is known to cause blow outs more than equipment malfunction 18 out of 39 times (according to a 2007 study by the U.S. Minerals Management Service).

Secondly, Halliburton can't get off that easily. History is repeating itself and many Americans weren't aware of what happened in Australia. Halliburton has been accused of a horrible cement job in the case of a major blowout in the Timor Sea off Australia last August. That is less than one year, and what have we learned? Well, the government and the media are coming down hard on BP, who now have dozens of class action lawsuits piling up. BP has stated that will "take full responsibility" for the spill and will pay legitimate claims by the parties that were affected. But should Halliburton take any ownership or accountability?

According to experts cited in the Wall St. Journal, "the timing of last week's cement job in relation to the explosion - only 20 hours beforehand, says the initial likely cause of gas coming to the surface had something to do with the cement." says Robert MacKenzie, managing director of energy and natural resources at FBR Capital Markets and a former cementing engineer.

So...what will Halliburton pay?

Image Source: U.S. Coast Guard

No comments: