Weatherford off the hook for oil-spill penalties, punitive damages
Weatherford U.S. LP, a Swiss oilfield service company that built key parts of BP’s failed Macondo well, will not have to face civil or criminal penalties and punitive damages for its role in the deadly Deepwater Horizon explosion and Gulf of Mexico oil spill, U.S. District Judge Judge Carl Barbier said Friday.
Weatherford designed and built the doomed well’s float collar, a device that sat at the well’s opening three miles below the seafloor. The device was supposed to ensure the cement poured into the well did not rise to the surface before it had time to set.
Federal investigations conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Interior Department found that the Weatherford device played a key role in the Deepwater Horizon explosion on April 20, 2010. The float collar is sent to the bottom of the well as a two-way-valve, but once in place is converted under enormous pressure into a one-way valve.
Although federal investigations found fault with Weatherford’s float collar, government reports underscore BP’s bungled efforts to install the device. Investigations found that BP workers struggled to convert the device to a one-way valve, using four times the pressure usually required to perform the conversion and repeating the process nine times, possibly damaging the device even further.
One employee working on the conversion said in an email that the device had finally been converted to a one-way valve, “Or we hope so,” he wrote.
BP workers also pumped drilling mud into the well at an inappropriately slow speed needed to perform the conversion.
The Times-Picayune also cited government reports that found BP officials higher in the ranks “could have chosen a more debris-resistant model of the device, and they ordered it placed in a more dangerous location in the hole than they should have.”
Judge Barbier, who is presiding over the BP oil spill litigation in New Orleans, said that sealed exhibits and documents he reviewed yielded “no evidence that the Weatherford float collar used in the production string of the Macondo well was defective and/or that any actions or inactions by Weatherford caused or contributed to the cause of the blowout and oil spill.”
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